Talking about war, returning soldiers and the veteran experience: A Morning Conversation with David Elliott, Minister for Veteran Affairs

On Tuesday 7 November, Affinity Intercultural Foundation continued their popular Morning Conversation lecture series, with a conversation between David Elliott MP, Minister for Counter Terrorism, Emergency Services and Veteran Affairs and Catalina Florez, Senior Journalist from Channel Ten.

The morning kicked off with a special ney performance from Furkan Cicek before David and Catalina delved into the topic of Veteran Affairs. The Minister shared how growing up in a working-class family in Bankstown helped shaped his career – from a young age, he was fascinated by war museums and memorials, which led him to begin a career in the army.

“I thought my mum was an enlightened woman – she is an enlightened woman – for taking me to all these museums and art galleries, but it turns out she took me because they were free to visit!” Minister Elliott laughed.

The Minister described this firsthand experience serving in the Australian army as the “perfect apprenticeship” for his current role as the Minister for Veteran Affairs.

He believes this experience allows him to understand the needs and support structures that are necessary for modern Australian soldiers.

“For soldiers, moral depends on how much support they receive from home.” he said.

In regards to supporting veterans and returning soldiers, the Minister highlighted the government’s employment programs, which have helped returning soldiers transition back into civilian life.

‘The government has implemented veteran employment programs that have placed returning soldiers back into employment,” he said.

“The vast majority of soldiers return to a military post, and there have been occasions when post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) does occur…but it’s hard to tell the exact rate at which soldiers experience PTSD, as it may take years for soldiers to share their experience.”

The Minister also highlighted the importance of diversity within the armed services, stating that, “the modern army of today is becoming reflective of Australian society…when you join the military, all your differences are broken down; existing prejudices gradually break away.”

He further added that, “the ANZAC spirit of courage, conviction, discipline, education and tolerance is important in the modern Australian army.”

The Minister concluded his insightful talk by sharing fond memories of his most recent trip to commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of Beersheba in Israel.

We are on but we are many: Michael Carr gives an insight into the diversity of the NSW independent schools sector

On Wednesday 25 October, Affinity Intercultural Foundation hosted a Lunchtime Lecture with Michael Carr, the Acting Executive Officer of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AISNSW). The program was facilitated by Professor Mark Hutchinson, Dean of Education, Arts and Social Sciences at Alphacrucis College.

The event attracted a turnout of more than 40 guests, who attended his presentation titled, We are one but we are many: independent schools making a difference.

The AISNSW is the peak body for independent schools in NSW and represents the interests of all independent schools in consultation with governments, statutory authorities and a wide range of other education stakeholders.

The non-profit body focuses on offering quality support to its member schools in areas of governance, employment relations, compliance as well as professional development and educational consultancy services.

Michael used his presentation as an opportunity to demystify many of the myths surrounding the New South Wales independent schools sector. He also profiled the sector as a whole and provided insights into ‘typical’ independent schools.

He shared that presently, the AISNSW has 421 member schools, with 31% of those being non-faith based while 69% are faith based. There are 41 special schools that cater to students with specific needs, as well as 53 boarding schools. Forty six per cent of these schools enrol fewer than 200 students and 65% have a socio-economic statue of less than 104.

Michael also examined 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 Australian society.

He also shared the statistic that independent schools in NSW enrolled 8,774 students with a disability and 3,759 Indigenous students.

Michael shared that an increasing number of students are choosing to send their children to non-government, independent NSW schools due to a number of reasons, including the primary fact that an independent school education provides a greater focus on well-rounded education as well as high academic standards.

Michael concluded his talk by commenting on the education standards of independent schools in NSW.

Overall, NSW independent schools have a diverse range of students who generally perform well regardless of cultural background. In particular, students from migrant backgrounds perform at least as well or better, than students who were born in Australia.

What is the price of safety: NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn delivers a Lunchtime Lecture at Affinity Intercultural Foundation

On Wednesday 4 October, Affinity hosted a Lunchtime Lecture with NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn. The program was facilitated by Judith Whelan, Head of ABC Spoken Content.

The title of the Deputy Commissioner’s work was What is the price of safety? The role of policing in our new security environment. In her talk, Deputy Commissioner Burn discussed the wider impacts of Australia’s current security environment and its implications for public safety.

Deputy Commissioner Burn outlined the threats that exist, as well as the changes to policing as an outcome of increased threat.

“The area that most changes in security measure will occur, is in the realm of cyber security,” she said.

“There will be new legislation in place for internet and data related cyber-crime…we need to be able to have powers to disrupt, interrupt, contain and control, as well as be adaptable.

“If I could have anything more, it would be to have greater information systems and sharing information.” she said.

The Deputy Commissioner also provided statistical evidence around terrorism and fear, and questioned whether there will be a time when we will view the threat differently.

“In the last 15 years, only 0.05% of deaths from terror attacks have occurred in western countries,” said Deputy Commissioner Burn.

“The majority of deaths from terrorism don’t occur in western countries. This is perhaps not what we feel when we see the paper or watch the news. It is not what we are made to feel.

“Islamic fundamentalism is not the primary driver of terror attacks – right-wing and other forms of radicalism are.”

She concluded on an optimistic note, stating that things are actually not as bad as we tend to think.

The event saw an impressive turnout of 50 guests. Special guests in attendance included members of the judiciary, Consul-Generals, as well as journalists and CEOs from various religious, community and media organisations.

November 28 Lunchtime Lecture with Alastair McEwin



About the speaker:

Alastair McEwin is Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner.  He commenced in this role in August 2016. Alastair’s educational background is in arts, law and business administration.  Following his undergraduate studies in Adelaide, he spent time in Vancouver, Canada, pursuing postgraduate studies.  Prior to moving to Sydney to commence as a consultant with Accenture, a global management and IT consulting company, he worked as Associate to the Hon. Justice John von Doussa at the Federal Court.  Alastair has a strong background in working with non-profit organisations. He was the Executive Director of Community Legal Centres NSW, the peak body for Community Legal Centres in NSW.  Other roles include CEO of People with Disability Australia and Manager of the Australian Centre for Disability Law.

Prior to commencing in his current role, he was the Chairperson of the NSW Disability Council, the official advisory board to the NSW Government on disability issues.  He was also the President of the Deaf Society of NSW and Chairperson of the Australian Theatre of the Deaf.  He has also been the coordinator of the World Federation of the Deaf Expert Group on Human Rights and an adjunct lecturer for the Masters of Community Management degree at the University of Technology Sydney.

About the facilitator:

Shane is Professor of Theology at Alphacrucis College, and an Honorary Associate, Centre for Disability Research and Policy, the Faculty of Health Sciences, the University of Sydney. His field of research is Pentecostal theology and, since he incurred a spinal cord injury in 2010, disability studies. His forthcoming book, Crippled Grace, is an interdisciplinary study that examines the virtue tradition’s conception of the good life from the perspective of disability.

An AUSLAN interpreter will be present at this event.

To confirm your attendance at this free event, please complete the form below by 5:00pm, Monday 27 November 2017:


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.

About the facilitator:

A broadcast journalist of ten years, Catalina Florez has covered everything from leadership spills and federal elections to bushfires and droughts. After an award-winning period in regional NSW, she moved to Sydney to cover general news but her fascination with politics lured her to Network Ten’s Canberra bureau. She covered the Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott before a leadership spill installed Malcolm Turnbull and travelled with and reported on both campaigns during the 2016 election. Catalina now heads the political bureau at NSW Parliament House where she’s already covered the leadership of two Premiers. During her career, not only has she reported on major political events but also broken stories about children in detention and the mistreatment of prisoners in the justice system. Colombian born and fluent in Spanish, Catalina has a passion for story telling.

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