November 7 Morning Conversation

About the speaker:

David Elliott was born in Bankstown in 1970 and was educated at Christian Community High School before completing a Bachelor of Arts in History and Asian Studies. He also holds a Graduate Certificate in Public Policy and Master of Arts (Communication).

David was elected to the 55th Parliament as the Member for Baulkham Hills in 2011. In May 2014 he was promoted to Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier for Youth, Homelessness and the Centenary of ANZAC.  In June 2011 he was also elected as the Chairman of the NSW Economic Development Committee.  In 2011 he presided over the Inquiry into the NSW Parliamentary Budget Office.  He is also the Chairman of Ministerial Consultative Council on India, Secretary of Parliamentary Friends of Papua New Guinea and Chairman of the St John Ambulance Parliamentary Auxiliary.  In 2012 he was appointed Chairman of the O’Farrell’s Government’s Plumbing Advisory Council and served in this role until December 2013.

Following the re-election of the Baird Government in March 2015, David was appointed Minister for Corrections, Emergency Services and Veterans Affairs. In August 2015 David was appointed as a Member in The Order of St John. In early 2017, Premier Gladys Berejiklian appointed David to be Minister for Counter Terrorism replacing Emergency Services. He is now Minister for Counter Terrorism, Corrections and Veterans Affairs.

To attend this event, please RSVP by completing the form below by 5:00pm Monday 6 November:

October 25 Lunchtime Lecture with Michael Carr, Acting Chief Executive of AISNSW

About the speaker:

Michael Carr holds Masters Degrees in Education, Commerce and Labour Law. He has extensive experience within the school environment both as a teacher of Mathematics and as Principal of three large Sydney High Schools.

Michael currently holds the position of Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer at the Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales (AISNSW). He has previously been Director of Governance and School Reviews, Director of Business Services and Director of Industrial Relations. Michael represents the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA) on a number of national committees.

About the facilitator:

Mark Hutchinson is an Australian intellectual historian, currently Professor of History and Dean of Education, Arts and Social Sciences at Alphacrucis College. He has published widely in the history of Australian higher education (including, with Bruce Mansfield,  Liberality of Opportunity: A History of Macquarie University 1964-1989, 1992; and A University of the People: A History of the University of Western Sydney, 2012), and in the history of global evangelicalism (e.g. with John Wolffe, The Cambridge Short History of Global Evangelicalism, 2012).

He has taught and run research programs at the University of NSW (1986-1988), Macquarie University (1991-1999) and Alphacrucis College (2000-2010, 2017-). Mark was Assistant Director of the Currents in World Christianity Project, Cambridge University, 1998-2001, and from 2011-2012 University Historian at the University of Western Sydney. The author and/or editor of 15 books and over 100 research papers, Mark has been a prolific contributor to conferences, research projects and media.  In addition to his disciplinary role as reviewer for journals such as JRH, Pneuma, and the like, he is a Core Member of the Religion and Society Research Cluster at Western Sydney University.

About the talk:

There are many myths circulating in the broader community regarding independent schools. So what does the independent school sector look like in NSW? This presentation will profile the sector as a whole but also provide insights into ‘typical’ independent schools. Michael will examine the sector’s demography in terms of its relationship with Indigenous students, students with disabilities, multicultural based schools and the contribution independent schools make to our Australian society. Michael will finally make conclusions about the education standards of independent schools in NSW.

To attend this event, please RSVP by completing the form below by 5:00pm Tuesday 24 October:

September 28 Lunchtime Lecture with Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja

About the facilitator:

Ricardo Goncalves is SBS’s Finance Editor, host of SBS’s Small Business Secrets program and regular SBS World News presenter. He joined SBS early 2010 after eight years as a business and finance reporter and presenter (as Richard Goncalves) with Sky News Business, where he anchored programs like Trading Day, Rates Reaction, In Business, IT and the popular Market Moves.

Ricardo has also worked as a general news reporter for Nine News Melbourne, and produced for Seven News Sydney, starting work in metropolitan media producing for financial journalist David Koch. He started his career in Wollongong where he grew up, reporting for Win News, while he completed his B Commerce in Marketing and Economics at the University of Wollongong.

Ricardo’s work has seen him interview virtually all of Australia’s top 200 CEOs, business leaders and global financial identities. Highlights include interviews with Richard Branson, Malcolm Turnbull, Alan Joyce and former Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva just to name a few.

Ricardo is also a heavy social media user, using Twitter and Snapchat (@BUSINESSricardo) to distribute business and market news in a way few of his contemporaries are.

About the speaker:

Senator the Hon. Zed Seselja was born in Canberra to Croatian immigrant parents and was raised in the Tuggeranong Valley. Before entering politics, Zed studied Arts and Law at the Australian National University and then moved into the Commonwealth Public Service working for the Department of Transport and Regional Services. In 2004 he was elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly representing the electorate of Molonglo. In 2007 he was elected as the ACT Opposition Leader and led the ACT Liberal Party in the 2008 and 2012 ACT elections.

Zed resigned from the Legislative Assembly in 2013 and was subsequently elected to the Australian Senate in September 2013, representing the Australian Capital Territory. During his time in the Senate, Zed was appointed to a number of committees including the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme National, the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, and the Senate Select Committee on Health.

Zed also served as Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs Legislation. Zed was re-elected as Senator for the ACT in July 2016 and was sworn in as Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs by the Governor-General on 19 July 2016. Zed has portfolio responsibility for Multicultural Affairs, Settlement Services, Child Protection, Adoption, and Housing. Zed is also a KeepWatch Ambassador with the Royal Lifesaving Society, an Ambassador for Focus ACT, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Healthy Harold Life Education, Kulture Break, a volunteer for St Vincent de Paul, and was a mentor for Menslink.

About the talk:

In March 2017 the Australian Government released a new multicultural statement, Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful, renewing the commitment to a strong and prosperous multicultural Australia and marking our nation as the most successful multicultural society in the world.

The Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Senator the Hon Zed Seselja, says multicultural Australia is about “all of us”. From the First Australians to our newest arrivals, through shared values, rights and responsibilities, we have all contributed to our social and economic fabric.

Assistant Minister Seselja will talk about our cultural diversity being one of our strongest assets, yet why we shouldn’t take our harmony and prosperity for granted. The Assistant Minister will present the Government’s vision and priorities going forward for Australia as a strong and successful multicultural nation.

To attend this event, please RSVP by completing the form below by 5:00pm Wednesday 27 September:

Twin talks: A Recap of Professor Scott Alexander’s 2017 Sydney tour

Professor Scott Alexander, from the Chicago Catholic Theological Union delivered two talks during the Sydney leg of his Australia and New Zealand tour in August with a presentation titled, Reforming Reform: Hizmet and the survival of ‘Civil Islam’ in contemporary Turkey and another one titled Difference in Dialogue: Promise or Peril?

The first event was held on Monday 7 August at Western Sydney University’s new Peter Shergold Building in collaboration between Affinity Intercultural Foundation and Western Sydney University’s School of Social Sciences and Psychology.

The talk included a response from Professor Kevin Dunn, Dean of the School of Social Science and Psychology and Professor in Human Geography and Urban Studies from Western Sydney University (WSU). The conversation was moderated by Associate Professor Cristina Rocha, WSU’s Director of Religion and Society Research Cluster.

Special guests in attendance included Deniz Erdogan, Executive Principal of Amity College, Laura Beylerian, Multicultural Community Liaison Officer from the Department of Social Services as well as Commander Jodi Radmore from the NSW Police Force.

Professor Alexander began his talk by giving a background of Islamic renewal and reform, before highlighting its contemporary iterations, which include Neo-Modernist, Neo-Traditionalist, Puritan and Shiite thought.

He discussed Secular Nationalism and the seeds of “civil Islam” (a term coined by Professor Ihsan Yilmaz) in the Nurcu and Hizmet Movements and proceeded to highlight the principal teachings of Fethullah Gulen, which are inspired by Said Nursi and the Nurcu Movement.

For Professor Alexander, the survival and future of “civil Islam” in Turkey and other Muslim majority societies will depend on a “re-evaluation of the role of the state in post-colonial social renewal and reform, as well as the depth of popular commitment to an intersectional approach to building strong civil societies.”

Professor Alexander’s second presentation was on Tuesday 8 August with a Lunchtime Lecture at Affinity Intercultural Foundation’s offices in Sydney on the topic of Difference in Dialogue: Promise or Peril?
The talk included a response from Professor Neil Ormerod, Professor of Theology at the Australian Catholic University. The conversation was moderated by retired ABC radio journalist, John Cleary.

Special guests in attendance included Leo Oaeke, Papua New Guinea Consul, Karl Hartleb, Austrian Consul-General and Anthony Long, Chief Inspector Commander of the Engagement and Intervention Unit, Anti-Terrorism and Security Group and Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command from the NSW Police Force.

Professor Alexander prefaced his talk with a positive affirmation. “Coming together for the fellowship of ideas is a sacred act…intercultural dialogue is like stepping into someone’s garden. You don’t know where the seeds are planted” he said.

In his talk, Professor Alexander interrogated what he refers to as the ‘sameness platitude’ and questioned what inter-religious forms of dialogue would be like if they were founded on the alternative premise that we are often more different than we are alike.

He quoted verse 13 from the Surat al-Hujurat from the Quran to highlight that “human difference is not an accident of history, but instead an outcome of divine providence and design.”

According to Professor Alexander, our difference should be viewed as, “an opportunity for growth…in knowledge and awareness of one another, self, and ultimately God through the process of relational encounter in difference.”

He questioned why in the present day, society is still afraid of difference. He offered that one reason is because we have “become so attached to the necessary but limited sense of security we get from homogeneity and the familiar, that we erect it as a false idol and lose the capacity to see the inherent beauty and transformative power of the heterogeneous and the strange.”

He proposed that dialogue and education be viewed as “sources of hope” to counteract hostile views of difference. Professor Alexander concluded his talk with a hopeful message about looking inwards and self-reflecting to realise our potential and begin to take positive action in our daily lives.

“Oftentimes we find ourselves spending a great deal of time waiting for governments and the powerful to act in the face of injustice…if we can turn our foci from waiting to doing, from the expectation that it is for others who are more powerful to act, we will never open ourselves to the miraculous ways in which God can act in and through us.” he said.

Overall, it was a wonderful event as many in the audience remarked on the well-delivered and thought-provoking presentation and discussion.

You can view the recordings and photos from the event below.

Abraham Conference 2017

On Sunday 16 July, an excited audience gathered at Parramatta Mission to listen to our panel of Muslim, Christian and Jewish speakers discuss pertinent issues related to living in a multi-faith and multicultural society. The panel was moderated by MC Julie McCrossin.

Please find below photos and video recordings from the event.