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Getting to know... Kamala Kanta Dash

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31 October 2012

Kamala Kanta Dash
Kamala Kanta Dash

Name: Kamala Kanta Dash
Faculty/Division: Arts
Dept: Political and Social Inquiry
Campus: Caulfield

How long have you been at Monash?
Since April 2008 

Where did you study/work prior to starting at the University?
In India, I was an MPhil student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi and was working as a Trainer of Trainers (2005-2008) for The Prism - The Hindu’s project on Newspaper in Education (NIE), New Delhi. The Hindu is  a prestigious and high quality multi-city daily newspaper highly recommended by intellectuals, academics, policy makers, school and university students. I also simultaneously worked as an Associate Faculty at Advait Life Education where I had to train MBA, BTech and MCA students in personal and professional development skills.

What do you like best about your role?
As a PhD researcher in public policy and community engagement I am required to meet and understand the perspectives of policy and community leaders. The most exciting part is to know the perception of communities on policy making and policy practices. This role combines my experience as a journalist, social activist, policy analyst and a neutral observer as a PhD researcher.

To make a balance is sometimes difficult; not impossible but definitely challenging. I like reading journal articles by leading researchers and get to know about the contemporary research in public policy, policing, counter-terrorism, Muslim societies and interfaith dialogues. A PhD degree at Monash trains a student in conducting cutting-edge research, developing innovative teaching methods, providing impactful policy and consulting service and I am proud to say that Monash makes you highly competitive and prepares you for a global role.

Why did you choose your current career path?
I was introduced to community and voluntary work by my father since early days of childhood. He inculcated in me the belief that Manav Seva is Madhav Seva (Service to mankind is Service to the God). I grew up as a very curious child asking questions on things related to compassion, love, nature and duties of human beings. During school and college days I developed a motivation to understand how societies work and grow and what restricts our paths for peaceful coexistence and mutual development.

Reporting and working for OrissaDiary and training school children in life, social and academic skills in Delhi provided me unique platforms to grow as a journalist and a skills trainer. Studying at the School of International Studies at JNU instilled a sense of global citizenship and moreover the vibrant campus life trained me to appreciate values of free speech, community service, social inclusion and interfaith dialogues. My perennial interest in identifying and understanding social, political and policy challenges to make a better society forms the base of my current PhD work.

First job?
Daily wage labourer in my village Brahmapur in the state of Odisha. This was during 1994-97 while I was doing a degree in political science and philosophy at LN Mohavidyalaya, a local college. I could not pay my fees and also wanted to earn and support my parents and young siblings.

Worst job?
Sales boy in Delhi. I used to sell soaps and later English dictionaries and atlases. I used to knock on doors and no one would buy. On many evenings I got no commissions and had to survive for a few weeks like this in 2000-2001 by borrowing from friends and others. I remember those days of hardship even today.   

What research/projects are you currently working on and what does it involve?
I am in my final year of a PhD and working towards the submission in 2013. The  PhD research is on community engagement in public policy where I specifically focus on the role and engagement of police and Muslim communities in counter-terrorism policy and practice in Delhi and Melbourne.

The study involves understanding the perception of the police and Muslim communities in Delhi and Melbourne through the analysis of primary documents, press releases, court documents and above all through semi-structured in-depth interviews. 

What is your favourite place in the world and why?
Melbourne, multicultural and the most liveable city in the world.

What is your favourite place to eat and why?
Whole Foods, Monash Uni, Clayton campus, great place to have vegetarian and organic meals.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?
You don't need to hate, disown or conceal your family background and experiences of growing up even if they are difficult and not that glorious.  

Tell us something about yourself that your colleagues wouldn’t know?
I did my school and college education in vernacular Oriya medium and learnt to use English and Hindi in academic and professional settings much later.

I learnt to play Mridanga (a type of hand-played percussion instrument) at the age of seven and have also been trained in the basics of Odissi dance and contemporary Shiamak Davar-style dance. I have directed plays for students in Delhi. I have a long cherished hidden desire to pursue acting for television.