Professor Des Cahill



School /
Work Unit

Global, Urban and Social Studies

Contact Details

+61 3 9925 4981


Building: 37
Level: 5
Room: 30

City Campus


Design & Social Context

"Prof Desmond Cahill"

Key activities

Educated in Australia and Italy, Des Cahill, Professor of Intercultural Studies at RMIT University, has been a world leading researcher and teacher in the areas of immigrant, cross-cultural and international studies for more than three decades. His Ph.D. was a study of family environment and the bilingual skills of Italo-Australian children. His many publications and research projects have focussed on many immigrant and refugee groups in Australia: Argentinian, British, Cambodian, Chilean, Dutch, Filipino, Greek, Italian, Lebanese, Maltese, Polish, Turkish, Uruguayan and Vietnamese, and he has conducted research in Japan, the Philippines, Switzerland and Viet Nam. His areas of interest have been in immigrant, multicultural and international education, cross-cultural communication, bilingualism and biculturalism, ethnic minority youth, immigrant settlement, ethnic community development, world population movements, cultural diversity policy development and evaluation, intermarriage, international students and, more recently, religion and globalization.

He established the Associate Diploma of Ethnic Studies in 1981 and the Bachelor of Arts (Multicultural Studies), begun in 1986, and managed the Graduate Diplomas in English as a Second Language and in Languages other than English. In 1997-98, together with Professor Michael Singh, he developed the undergraduate Bachelor of Arts (International Studies), now the top such course in Victoria.

In the area of policy and program evaluation, he has led major projects at the highest level of government, particularly in the area of multicultural education and ethnic youth, especially with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Since the events of September 11th 2001, he has played a major role in researching and bringing together the various faith communities in Australia and across the world through his research and community activities. He currently chairs the Australian chapter of Religions for Peace International, the world’s largest interfaith organization, and represents Australia on the executive committee of the Religions for Peace Asia - in October 2008, he was elected its Deputy Moderator by the Governing Board representing the 18 member nations including Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the two Koreas. He is a member of the Australian Partnership of Religious Organizations (APRO) and of the Victoria Police Multifaith Advisory Council.

In 2006, he led Melbourne’s successful bid, in competition against Delhi and Singapore, to host the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 3rd – 9th December 2009, the world’s largest interfaith gathering. As a consequence, he has been made an Ambassador for Club Melbourne, a group of 100 leading scientists and academics, to promote the image of Melbourne around the world.

In the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours List, he was awarded the Order of the Medal of Australia for "services to Intercultural Education and to the Interfaith Movement".


  • Bachelor of Theological Studies, Urban University, Rome, 1968
  • Master of Theological Studies, Urban University, Rome: 1970
  • Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 1977
  • Master of Education (Educational Psychology) Faculty of Education, Monash University; Clayton,1979
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Educational and Social Psychology)Faculty of Education, Monash University; Clayton, 1985
  • Honorary Fellow of the Australian Council of Educational Leaders

Professional interests and links to industry

  • Religions for Peace Asia, deputy moderator (since 2008), co-president (since 2008) and Australian representative (since 2001)
  • Religions for Peace International, Australian representative (since 2001)
  • Religions for Peace Australia, chairperson (since 2001)
  • Australian Partnership of Religious Organizations, member (since 2003)
  • Parliament of the World’s Religions, Board of Management
  • (2006 – 2010); leader of Melbourne bid (2006) and honorary program manager (2007 – 2010)
  • Victoria Police Multifaith Advisory Council, member (since 2005)
  • Catholic Council for Pastoral Research, member (since 2008)
  • Australian Polish Community Services, member, executive committee (since 2000)
  • Ambassador for Club Melbourne, (since 2007)part of the “Think Melbourne, Think Victoria” strategy
  • Centre for Dialogue, LaTrobe University, member, advisory board, (since 2006)
  • World Conference of Religions for Peace, Australian representative, World Assembly at Kyoto, 2006
  • Australian Catholic Bishops’ National Pastoral Strategy for a Multicultural Australia, member, working party, 2006 – 2007.
  • October 2001: Representative for Australia, Post-S11 Conference, World Conference of Religions for Peace, UN Plaza, New York and Ground Zero.

Research and Scholarship


The following is a selected list of his publications:

Cahill, D. (with R. Taft) (1978) Initial Adjustment to Schooling to Immigrant Families (AGPS, Canberra)

Cahill, D. (1984) Review of the Commonwealth Multicultural Education Program (Commonwealth Schools Commission, Canberra) vols 1 – 3.

Cahill, D. (with Nguyen X.T.)(1984)(eds) Understanding Vietnamese Refugees in Australia (PIT, Coburg)

Cahill (with J. Ewen) (1987) Ethnic Youth: their Assets and Aspirations (AGPS, Canberra)

Cahill, D. (1988) Ethnic and immigrant education. In J. Jupp (ed.) The Australian People: the Encyclopedia of the Australian Nation, its People and their Origins (Angus & Robertson, Sydney)

Cahill, D. (with R.Taft) (1989) Mother tongue maintenance in Lebanese immigrant families in Australia. Journal of Multicultural and Multilingual Development, 10, 2, 129 - 143.

Cahill, D.(with Nguyen X.T. & L. Bertelli)(1990) Australia and Indochinese Health Issues (AAVS, Melb)

Cahill, D. (1990) Intermarriage in International Contexts: A Study of Filipina Wome Married to Australian, Japanese and Swiss Men (SMC Press, Manila)

Cahill, D. (1992) The access and equity strategy: its impact upon ethnic minority young people. In Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet(OMA) Access and Evaluation Research (AGPS, Canberra)

Cahill, D. (1995) Should young Australians keep crossing their fingers? Intercultural action for a multicultural world In C. Guerra and R. White (eds) Ethnic Minority Youth in Australia (National Clearing House for Youth Studies, Hobart)

Cahill, D. (1995) Australia and its policy of multiculturalism (bilingual edition) In Phan Cu De (ed.) Australia, the Country, its People and their Culture (RICC, Vietnam National University, Hanoi)

Cahill, D. (1996) Immigration and Schooling in the 1990s (AGPS, Canberra)

Cahill, D. (1997) Racism in Australian schools: results of a nation-wide study. Australian Journal of Psychology, 49, supplement, 30

Cahill, D. (1997) Is the sky falling down? The challenge of Hansonism for the language education profession in multicultural Australia. Journal of the Modern Language Teachers’ Association of Australia, 1, 3, 7 - 13.

Cahill, D. (1997) Education for intercommunal and inter-religious interaction and understanding in multicultural societies. Migration Action, XIX, 1, 21 - 32.

Cahill, D (with B. Keceli) (1998) Equality and education: the case of second-generation Turkish Australian students. Journal of Intercultural Studies 19, 2, 207 – 214.

Cahill, D. (1999) The schooling of students from immigrant backgrounds: a Maltese perspective. In Cauchi, M. et al.(eds) Maltese Background Youth (Europe-Australia Institute, Melbourne)

Cahill, D. (2000) Paradoxes and predictions: Italians and Catholicism in multicultural Australia. In Genovesi, P. and Musolino, W. (eds) In Search of the Italian Australian into the New Millennium (GroSet Publications, Melbourne)

Cahill, D. (with Ngo, B. (2001) The Vietnamese in Australia. In J. Jupp (ed.) The Australian People: an Encyclopedia of the nation, its People and their Origins (Cambridge University Press, Melbourne)

Cahill, D. (2001) The rise and fall of multicultural education in Australia. In Grant, C. and J. Lei (eds) Global Constructions of Multicultural Education (Lawrence Erblaum, N.J.) This book won the annual prize for the best book published on multicultural education in the USA.

Cahill, D. (2002) From broadbanding to disbanding: the schooling of students from immigrant families at the run of the millennium. In Singh, M. (ed.) Worlds of Learning: Globalization and Multicultural Education (Common Ground, Melbourne)

Cahill, D. (2003) Paradise Lost: religion, cultural diversity and social cohesion in Australia. Australian Mosaic no. 2, 5 – 8.

Cahill, D. (2003) Multicultural and religious communities in a global order. Forum Report of the the Second Diversity Matters: A Commonwealth Forum on Cultural Diversity (Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit, University of London), 7 – 12.

Cahill, D. (with P. Phipps) (2003) After September 11th: religion, diversity and social cohesion under globalization Australian Religion Studies Review 16, 2, 8 – 18.

Cahill, D. (2003) God and globalization: the role of faith communities in building social capital and construction peace. In International Conflict Resolution Centre International Perspectives on Peace and Reconciliation (CD Rom, University of Melbourne)

Cahill, D. (2004) Missionaries on the Move: History of the Scalabrinians in Australia and Asia 1952 – 2002 (Center for Migration Studies, New York)

Cahill, D. (2004) Globalization, Christianity and fundamentalism. Around the Globe 1, 2, 15 – 20.

Cahill, D., Bouma, G., Dellal, H. & M. Leahy (2004) Religion, Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Australia (Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Canberra)

Cahill, D. and M. Leahy (2004) Constructing a Local Multi-Faith Network (Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Canberra)

Cahill, D. (with E. Drozd) (eds) (2004) Polonia in Australia: Challenges and Possibilities in the New Millennium (Common Ground, Melbourne)

Cahill, D. (2005) Managing and regulating religion in the context of global governance. In Monash Governance Research Unit Integrated Governance: Linking up Government, Business and Civil Society (CD Rom, Monash University)

Cahill, D. (2005) The conundrum of globalization. Australian Mosaic 12, 4, 6- 11.

Cahill, D. (2006) ‘Lift up the Sky’. Are the Dutch in Australia assimilationists or accommodationists? In N. Peters (ed.) The Dutch Down Under 1606 - 2006 (Wolters Kluwer, Sydney)

Cahill, D. (2007) From dagoes to doers: accommodating Australia’s Italian migrants by church and state. In A. Paganoni (ed.) The Pastoral Care of Italians in Australia: Memory and Prophecy (Connor Court Publishing, Victoria)

Cahill, D. (2009) In transition: The governance of religious and ethnic diversity in contemporary Australia. In P. Bramadat and M. Koenig (eds) International Migration and the Governance of Religious Diversity

Cahill, D. (2009) The emergence of multifaith in Australia. Australian Mosaic 21, 7 - 9

Cahill, D. (2009) Ecumenical and interfaith activity in Australia In J. Jupp (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia (Cambridge University Press, Melbourne) pp 633 - 639

Cahill, D. (2009) Structure and leadership in the Australian Catholic Church. In J. Jupp (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Religion in Australia (Cambridge University Press, Melbourne), pp 227 - 235

Cahill, D. (2009) Religious education and interreligious education: their context in social capital and social cohesion in Australia. Journal of Religious Education

Cahill, D. (2009) Citizenship, Social Cohesion and Civic Incorporation in the Context of Australia’s Ethnic and Religious Diversity, Proceedings of Inaugural Conference, Multicultural Australia and Lessons for Korea, Centre for Australian Studies, Institute of East and West Studies, Yonsei University.

Cahill, D. (2010) Reflecting on the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions: The continuing challenges for the interreligious movement. In K. Engebretson et al.(eds), ‘International Handbook of Interreligious Education’ (Springer, USA).


His research projects have been:

2008 – 2010: Religion and Diversity in a Globalizing World: Beyond Ground Zero: research project for Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

2008: Chief researcher, Development of a Multicultural Education Policy for Victorian Government Schools: project for the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, July- October 2008,

2007:Irish lecture Series on Immigration Policy and Practice, sponsored by the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants Overseas, Dublin, November 2007.

2007 – 2010: chief researcher (with Prof. G. Bouma and Dr Hass Dellal), Freedom of Religion (article 18 of ICCPR, section 118 of Australian constitution): Australia-wide consultation for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in association with the Australian Multicultural Foundation

2006 – 2007: Vietnamese Community of Australia: The Face of Vietnamese Australia: 30 Years in Australia.

2005 – 2007: Vietnamese Community of Australia (Victoria): Feasibility study for a Vietnamese Cultural Heritage Centre

2005 – 2007: Consultant to the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference on migrant pastoral care project, Graced by Migration.

2002 – 2004: Commonwealth Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Australian Multicultural Foundation: Religion, Cultural Diversity and Social Cohesion Project.

2000 – 2004 Scalabrini Research Center (Sydney and Manila): History of the Scalabrinians in Australia and Asia 1952 – 2002.

2000 – 2001: November – January, Visiting Scholar, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang.

1999 – 2001: Moreland Hall/Uniting Church of Australia: Indochinese prisoners in Port Phillip prison (unpublished report)

1994 - 1996: Chief Researcher, Immigration and the Schooling of Ethnic Minority Students project, funded by the Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research, Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs

1992- 1993: Editor, Migration Monitor

1991- 1992: Chief Researcher, Evaluation of Access and Equity Strategy (Young Ethnic Minority People), Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (Office of Multicultural Affairs)

1990 - 1991: Member, Consultative Committee on Multiculturalism and the Law, Australian Law Reform Commission

1990: Visiting Research Fellow (i) Scalabrini Research Centre, Manila, Philippines (ii) Centro Studi Emigrazione, Roma, (iii) Center for Migration Studies, New York.

1989 - 1990: Chief Researcher, Intercultural Marriage Project (research project in Australia, Japan, the Philippines and Switzerland)

1988: Executive Officer for development of sub-majors in (i) Indochinese Studies and (ii) Middle Eastern Studies for incorporation into undergraduate programs

1988: Consultant to Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (Office of Multicultural Affairs), development of policy options paper on Ethnic Minority Young People in the development of a National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia.

1983 - 1984: Chief researcher, National Review of the Commonwealth Multicultural Education Program across all states and territories, Commonwealth Schools Commission

Research supervision

Professor Cahill has supervised theses in the following areas:

  • Solidarity Wave of Polish Immigrants to Australia
  • The Turkish Immigrant Community
  • The Adjustment of Japanese Students in Australia
  • Grading Practices in Adult ESL Programs
  • The Social and Psychological Well-Being of Elderly Vietnamese
  • Greek Ethnic Schools in Australia: Policy and Practice
  • English Reading Strategies of Indonesian University Students
  • The Middle Years of Schooling and Schooling Reform Plan
  • History of the Greek Consular Education Office in Melbourne
  • Greek Regional Associations: the Teaching of their Traditions
  • Greek Australian Students with Special Educational Needs
  • Guanxi and Chinese-Australian Intercultural Conflict Resolution
  • Identity Formation in Second-Generation Immigrant Persons
  • Professionalization and Greek Ethnic Schools in Victoria
  • The Settlement of Young Serbian Refugees from Croatia
  • Radical Islam in Central Asia
  • International Alumni and their Alma Mater Links with RMIT
  • Life-on-the-Line:Identity and Presence in Chatrooms
  • Religious Education in Greek Orthodox Schools
  • Internet-based Survey Design for Thai University Web Sites
  • Delivery of Local Government Services to Polish Aged People
  • Inter-Ethnic Relationships in Central Asia
  • Confucian Humanism as the Foundation for Human Right
  • The Sudanese and Burundi Communities in Victoria
  • Motivation, Learning Strategies and English Language Learning
  • The Thai Automotive Industry and its English Language Need
  • Diasporic Identity in Greek Australian Writers 1901 -2001
  • Religion, Spirituality and the Refugee Experience
  • Second Language Education Policy in Australia and Greece
  • Transnationalism and Faith Communities:Serbian Orthodoxy

Accomplishments and achievements

2004, Australia Together Peace Award “in recognition of your positive contribution to national harmony”, presented by the Australian Intercultural Society

2006, Honorary Fellow of the Australian Council of Educational Leaders for his work and leadership in immigrant, cross-cultural, interfaith and international education.

2006, appointment as Club Melbourne Ambassador as part of the “Think Melbourne, Think Victoria” strategy.

2007, Club Melbourne Leadership Award in leading the City of Melbourne’s bid to host the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions

2010, Order of the Medal of Australia for "services to Intercultural Education and to the Interfaith Movement"