The Role of Tertiary Education in Fostering Harmony

Affinity Intercultural Foundation held its monthly lecture series on 25 August 2016 on the topic ‘The role of tertiary education in fostering harmony’. We were honoured to have Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney Dr Michael Spence address over 60 guests from across the business sector, education sector and the wider community.

The program began with a special lunch for the guests followed by the official welcome by Professor Rosemary Johnston, member of Affinity’s advisory board. Professor Johnston introduced this month’s facilitator, Jan McClelland, Deputy Chancellor of the University of New England.

Dr Michael Spence presented a vivid an engaging talk on the need for universities to take more of an active role in instilling students with ‘softer’ social values as well as classic preparation for the workforce.

The informative lecture was opened up further in the Q&A session. The audience was very enthusiastic in their line of questioning and although time did not allow for all points to be addressed, Dr Spence provided quality responses across the board.

The program was concluded with a gift presentation from Jeremey Fernandez, journalist at ABC News 24, presenting Dr Spence with an engraved classic Turkish vase on behalf of Affinity.

Affinity would like to thank all of the attendees and specially thank Galaxy Foundation for sponsoring the event.

Next month’s lecture will be presented by Dr Elizabeth Coombs, Privacy Commissioner of NSW on 21 September 2016 and she will be covering the topic ‘What’s happening – or not – in privacy?’



Abraham Conference 2016

21ST August 2016

Affinity Intercultural Foundation together with their partners the Jewish Board of Deputies, Uniting Church of Australia and Columban Mission Institute co-hosted the 2016 Abraham Conference: Hate Speech and Violence at the Parramatta Mission Fellowship Hall on Sunday 21 August 2016.

Affinity together with its partners was pleased to welcome over 100 guests from across the business sector, education sector and the wider community. Some notable attendees are MPs Jihad Dib and Julie Owen and the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed.

We were honoured to have Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton deliver the keynote address on how hate speech and violence are intricately linked and the damages they can cause communities.

Following Dr Elton’s address, we were pleased to hear from our esteemed panellists Ari Lander, Dr Ghena Krayem, Fr Claude Mostowik, Julie Nathan, Rev. Tara Curlewis and Shk Haisam Farache on a range of topics including the effect of hate speech on their individual communities and the solutions presented to curb hate speech. At the conclusion of the program there was definitely a wider understanding of each other and the problems faced by all represented communities.

The proceedings were moderated seamlessly by David Knoll, A.M and it was a wonderful program enjoyed by all. Thank you to Kati, Briana and Manas for their efforts in organising the event and to everyone who attended.


Parliament House of NSW Ramadan Iftar Dinner (2016)

The 2016 NSW Parliament Friendship and Dialogue Iftar took place at the NSW Parliament House, Strangers Lounge. Co-hosted by Affinity and NSW parliamentarians the Hon. John George Ajaka, MLC and the Hon. Sophie Cotsis, MLC, the event was attended by over 200 guests including MP’s, consuls general and representatives from the community and government. Sandra Sully, Channel 10 Journalist and Senior Editor with TEN, was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.

The keynote speaker, His Excellency General the honourable David Hurley AC, DSC, Governor of New South Wales spoke about the importance of having a nation which is not feared but rather celebrates diversity and acceptance. His Excellency General emphasised that “nations aren’t built by bricks and waters, roads, bridges and so forth. It’s built through the positive efforts, the interactions, the synergies of people in pursuit of a peaceful, fair, tolerant, dynamic and diverse nation.” His Excellency Generals emphasis on a society which firmly believes and promotes plurality very much coincided with the purpose of the NSW Parliament Friendship and Dialogue dinner.

The Honourable John Ajaka identified through the example of the dinner just how harmonious the people that live in NSW are. He added that the coming together of the community and helping the vulnerable is part of the spirit of Ramadan.

The Honourable Sophie Cotsis described the Friendship and Dialogue Iftar Dinner to be a night of diversity within the peoples Parliament of NSW. She also emphasised that “our diversity is our strength” and the coming together of people from “different sectors, from across the political divide.”

Additional speakers included Dr Julian Droogan, senior lecturer at Macquarie University and Editor in Chief of the Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism who opened the program, Ibrahim Karaisli from Amity College who recited the call to prayer and the verses from the Qur’an, Ahmet Polat, executive director of Affinity and Chief Justice James Allsop who concluded the program with a vote of thanks.

The evening included entertainment from the Amity College choir and enthralling performance from the Whirling Dervishes. The iftar promoted greater conversation and dialogue between different groups in wider society and increased awareness and appreciation of the diversity present in our community.

His Excellency General The Honorable David Hurley, NSW Governer

Ms Sandra Sully 

The Hon John Ajaka 

His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley’s speech at NSW Parliament House Iftar


His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales




Merhaba. [1]

Firstly, I would like to pay my respects to the traditional owners and custodians of this land on which we gather – the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have sustained and nurtured this land for tens of thousands of years. I acknowledge their living culture as the world’s oldest, and affirm my respect for their elders, ancestors and descendants.

There are a series of brass plaques on the concrete walkway between Circular Quay and the Opera House.

You may know the ones to which I refer.

When you get up close, you notice that each of the plaques refers to a famous writer and their works.

In my perambulations around the Opera House, one in particular grabbed my attention.

It was the one referring to David Malouf – Australian writer of such award-winning novels as Johnno, An Imaginary Life, Fly Away Peter and Remembering Babylon, and this year’s recipient of the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature.

On his plaque, was the following quotation, written in 1978:

Australia is still revealing itself to us.

We oughtn’t to close off possibilities by declaring too early what we have already become.’[2]

This paradox made me stop and think.

It also made me think because of what I know of this author’s background – born in Brisbane to a Lebanese father and an English-born mother of Portuguese descent.

In many ways, his story epitomises the Australian story of multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism is inherent in the DNA of our nation which saw people from many countries undertake vast journeys to live in a land considered remote by many.

One of the messages of our nation’s story of migration is that however we identify culturally, we will build and share a common destiny.

What we share is stronger than what separates us.

This is also the message of our history, in which religious freedom has been embedded.

Among the First Fleet and subsequent arrivals to the colony of New South Wales from 1788, there was a mix of religious denominations.

Later, having observed the sectarian intolerance in Ireland, one of my predecessors, Sir Richard Bourke, the 8th Governor of New South Wales (1831-37) formally recognised the importance of – and the relationship between – religious freedom and peace and prosperity, through introducing The Church Act of 1836.

This Act diminished the power of the Anglican Church in the colony, while not going as far as the American principle of separation of Church and State.

The unique New South Wales compromise was one of equal treatment by the State for all religions.  Religious denominations could receive government funding for some of their activities, in return for cooperating with the State in building and establishing hospitals, schools, and other social services. This principle has ebbed and flowed in the strength of its application, but still remains at the core of our society where religious freedom and diversity are enshrined.

As 38th Governor of New South Wales, I have come to realise, as I learn more about the Governors that preceded me and the historical plans of the British Crown, that while New South Wales may have originated as a place to dump the unwanted convicts of Britain’s vast overflowing prisons, within a very short while, it came to be seen as a form of social experiment. Indeed, John Dunmore Lang, the first Scottish Presbyterian Minister of the colony, called it ‘a transcendently important experiment.’[3]

When the vastness and fertility of this continent was fully understood by a nation 20,000 kilometres away, the Governors of this State were given the licence to go out and build a nation – a nation that was free, diverse and prosperous and, within a very short period of time, where people could live as equals.

However, a nation is not built through bricks and mortar. It is built through the positive efforts, interactions and synergies of people in pursuit of a peaceful, fair, tolerant, dynamic and diverse nation.

This, I think, is that to which David Malouf alludes in his words – this work is ongoing and will never be completed.

But it is up to all of us to be involved in the creation of it. Together, we can achieve a State and nation that represents this brand of beautiful multiculturalism.

In the late 1980s, we lived in Malaysia. I was an advisor to a Malay infantry battalion. I was the only non-Muslim in the area of Sungai Petani. I learned a great deal about the practice of Islam during that time. The first time I heard the call to prayer was when it woke me very early in the morning after we had arrived.

For over 200,000 people in our State, the call to prayer also speaks to them.

Our nation has one of the world’s most diverse populations and a wonderful mix of cultures and religions.

We must never let our differences lead us to conflict. We must strive to build relationships, not create estrangement. We need to be a truly blended society, not simply one that seeks to have different cultures co-exist.

When we connect in a spirit of dynamic cooperation, respecting each other’s differences while recognising the commonalities that have drawn us together to live as one people, we are truly magnificent.

This I have experienced at many events, including the Bankstown Children’s Fair, the Multicultural Mawlid Concert and the Islamic Charity Project Association Ramadan Dinner.

And, indeed, in the coming together of the community at Martin Place following the Lindt Café crisis in December of the previous year, and in our response to bushfires and floods.

We saw it, last week, in the imagery and spirit of unity we witnessed at Muhammad Ali’s interfaith funeral service in Louisville.

One of my staff experienced it, quite recently, at the start of Ramadan.

While walking from Government House one glorious evening, one of those gorgeous sunsets embraced the stretch of grass leading down to Macquarie Street.

The Harbour Bridge right around to the west was framed by brilliant swathes of turquoise, pink and orange.

In front, a young man walked. He greeted her as their paths crossed and then, as he walked further on in front, he paused, lay down a mat on the grass and knelt facing the western sky in prayer.

Tonight, we also embrace the spirit of peace, unity, giving and prayer at this Iftar Dinner, as we also reflect on those who struggle amidst war in many parts of the world, and for food and shelter, here in Australia and around the globe.

Ramadan is known as a time for not just giving up food and drink during daylight hours but for giving generously and compassionately to those less fortunate and to the charitable organisations that help them.

There is no better way to celebrate friendship than through inviting people to break bread with you and this is a tradition that crosses all national, cultural and religious backgrounds.

Tonight we break the fast with dates, fruit of the date palm, symbolic of the tree of life and eternal life, and traditionally known as the fruit that the Prophet Muhammad ate when he broke from his fast.

This evening, we celebrate our community coming together at the common table to share food, friendship and reflection at the end of the day’s fast.

Iftar is a wonderful opportunity for members of different backgrounds and cultures and diverse belief and faith groups to come together and learn about each other and to build on the feelings of solidarity, inclusiveness and belonging in the community.

Around our nation – and in many other nations of the world – millions of families are also coming together at Iftar, and have invited friends and neighbours to their table.

In Sydney, at night markets in Lakemba; at restaurants in Auburn and Bankstown; and at family tables at Parramatta, in Dee Why and Hurstville, and right across our City and our State, families and friends are gathering to do the same.

I congratulate the Islamic community and the Affinity Intercultural Foundation on your organisation of both this Dinner and the 30 and more home Iftar Dinners you have organised across Sydney this month to bring all people together, regardless of background.

Linda and I are also looking forward to attending as guests at a home Iftar Dinner arranged by Affinity in July.

On behalf of the people of New South Wales, I wish you all the best as you observe the holy month of Ramadan.

This evening’s Dinner is a wonderful occasion highlighting inclusiveness, friendship and dialogue as key contributors to social harmony.

I am honoured to support this event and convey my warm wishes as we come together at the Iftar table to celebrate our community of many faiths and cultures.

Linda and I look forward to meeting you this evening.

Assalamu alaykum[4]

Ramadan kareem[5]


[1]Arabic and Turkish phrase that translates to “Hello” and “Welcome.”

[2]Lugarno Postscript: Notes and Furphies (1979)

[3] JD Lang – Historical and Statistical Account of the Colony of New South Wales, page 231

[4]Arabic greeting that translates to “May peace be upon you.”

[5]Arabic phrase that translates to “May your Ramadan be blessed/generous.”


Governer of NSW link: