As we enter the festive season, it’s time to reflect on the year that was – and it was a very good year indeed. We published our first independently funded think pieces – something we had dreamed about when starting HAG – a way to put leading-edge ideas into the sector as our unique contributions. We found our feet as a social enterprise and achieved B Corp recertification, demonstrating that our contributions to the sector are ethical, authentic and meaningful. We worked in 11 countries and with national consultants in Vanuatu, the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh. We were thrilled to welcome Jo-Hannah Lavey, Sally Airs-Shevach and Seeta Giri to our team and proudly hosted a CareerTrackers intern for the first time. And to finish off the year, we are so pleased to share our second Annual Report.
The following books are our must-reads to keep you busy over the summer break!
Our suggested reading
This book from Melbourne-based aid worker Denis Dragovic is more than the usual war stories we have come to expect from this genre. Denis wanted to know if the work he was involved in over the years had any real and lasting impact, so he travels back to South Sudan, Iraq and Timor Leste to find out. The money, mess and mayhem that accompany these crises, along with the often unsavoury international personalities, are all too real. His lasting friendships overlay geopolitical events that have shaped the international humanitarian system over the last 20 years and his findings are a mixed bag indeed.
The Girl From Aleppo: Nujeen’s Escape from War to Freedom, Nujeen Mustafa with Christina Lamb
Written by Christina Lamb, the best-selling author of I am Malala, The Girl from Aleppo follows Nujeen Mustafa’s harrowing yet brave journey. Leaving from her home in Aleppo, she escapes as a 16 year old refugee and embarks on the journey taken by so many Syrian refugees, crossing borders and oceans to make her way to Europe. Facing a journey already plagued with challenges, Nujeen has cerebral palsy, and travels over land sea from Syria to Germany in a wheelchair. Nujeen’s story provides a perspective of the Syria crisis that we don’t often see – the complexities and challenges from the eyes of a child refugee. A powerful, emotional story that showcases bravery, and unexpected heartwarming examples of human kindness amongst the bleak backdrop of a war that has been waging seven years too long.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari
21 Lessons for the 21st Century is an eye-opening collection of short essays that try to make sense of the issues that define and disrupt modern life. From the critically acclaimed author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and follow-up Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, this book provides broad reflections on the present day that are intriguing, confronting and at times provocative. Harari unpacks and imagines solutions to the most pressing issues on the global agenda, including disillusionment with liberal ideology, artificial intelligence and automation, environmental degradation, and the use of disruptive technologies in war. Harari’s latest book is a highly recommended read for those suffering from modern day (dis)information overwhelm.
The Other, Ryszard Kapuscinski
This book is a must read for any one that travels or works somewhere other than in their country of birth. It eloquently and brilliantly explores how we define and experience ‘the other’. It reminds us to see the world through the eyes of others and to take joy in that experience. Written by the most generous author I have come across, Kapuscinski is a master with words and it is a wonderful read that can also be consumed in a short afternoon with less that 100 pages to contemplate. You’ll transform between lunch and dinner time and have the best table chat over a bottle of wine that evening.
The Political Life is No Life At All, Katharine Murphy, Meanjin
Katharine Murphy, Australia’s Guardian Political Editor, writes compassionately and insightfully in Meanjin about the toxic workplace environment of Australian politics. Drawing on themes of workplace diversity, this piece articulates how the competitive and brutal hours of parliament attract immense egos and hardline personalities which in turn influence the political events that shape our democracy. This longform article is one to take to the beach, or to settle down with a nice holiday drink and get stuck into. There are important reflections for us all in order ‘for our political system to sustain our best and brightest’ across all walks of life.
Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe
Broken up into a series of chapters, each focusing on strong themes such as Fire, Pascoe enables the reader to be transfixed by a decolonial historical account of Australia. This is a book that disproves recorded colonial history and allows for Indigenous knowledge to be known by anyone willing to read. Pascoe has used engaging accessible language, allowing nearly any person to be able to pick up this book and read it and not want to put it down until every word has been devoured. A great aspect of this book is the way it’s been referenced, giving the option for the reader to go to the bibliography and continue their own research if any (or all) themes resonates with them. The book doesn’t only give the reader facts, but also ways in which to decolonise the land physically with contemporary issues such as farmers in drought. Bringing light to the complexity of Aboriginality and way of living illustrates the erasure of Black history in Australia. Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike are able to learn incredibly valuable aspects of Black Australia.
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
The 1966 In Cold Blood is the original true crime read, detailing the events surrounding the mysterious murder of a family in a small farming community in Kansas. The focus of the book is not so much on the murders themselves: the book explores a society that creates distinct binaries of good and bad, innocent and villainous and forces undesirable individuals to remain on the margins. Capote is in close contact with the perpetrators of the violent crime, visiting the two while on trial and death row and, later, confirming that he did in fact develop a true friendship with the accused. “Four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives.”
Other reading from Humanitarian Advisory Group:
- Report | Extractives and Emergencies: the Papua New Guinea Earthquake Response
- Blog | Australia’s drought: the disaster at our doorstep
- Report | Localisation: Opportunities and challenges for protection in disaster response
- Blog | Not the ‘best time to start hugging trees’: Incorporating the environment into humanitarian response
- Report | Drawing on our Diversity: Humanitarian Leadership
- Blog | Aid worker wellbeing: Time to face the elephant in the room
- Report | Tracking Progress on Localisation: A Pacific Perspective