“The mother of all Iftar dinners”: Affinity’s 2017 Friendship & Dialogue Iftar dinner returns to NSW Parliament House

On Wednesday 7 June, Affinity Intercultural Foundation held its ninth annual Friendship and Dialogue Iftar Dinner at NSW Parliament House, with over 330 guests in attendance. The evening began with a welcome speech from Dr Elizabeth Coombs, the NSW Privacy Commissioner as well as an Acknowledgement of Country from Stan Grant, renowned journalist and the ABC’s Indigenous Affairs editor. The night continued as MC Hugh Riminton graced the stage with his charismatic presence and set the night into full gear.

Ibrahim Karaisli from Amity College delivered the ‘adhan’ (call to prayer) and the fast was broken with dates followed by a sumptuous three-course dinner. The evening was enlivened by a special musical performance from the Amity College Choir and Indigenous performer Walangari Karntawarra. The choir was complemented by a range of instruments, including the didgeridoo, wood sticks, the ukulele, xylophones, shakers and violin.

After dinner, the program began with speeches from the event co-hosts: the Hon. Ray Williams MP, Minister for Disability Services and Multiculturalism and the Hon. Sophie Cotsis MLC, Shadow Minister for Women, Ageing, Disability Services and Multiculturalism, as well as Ahmet Polat, Executive Director of Affinity Intercultural Foundation.

After a Quran recitation from Ibrahim Karaisli, NSW Police Chief Commissioner Michael Fuller APM took to the stage to deliver the keynote speech. In his address, he outlined his vision to focus on the prevention of crime, reduction of domestic violence and tackling terrorism and gang crime. The audience was left with a renewed sense of hope that our state was in good hands under Commissioner Fuller’s direction.

The keynote address was followed by a Sufi musical performance from the Anatolian Music Group, consisting of lead singer Dr Gazi Erkisi, Omer Faruk and Salih Resitoglou, who arrived from Melbourne to deliver a stirring performance. To accompany their singing, the band used two popular Middle Eastern instruments, the ney and kanun as part of their performance.

The evening proceeded with a gift presentation ceremony, where special Turkish gifts, sourced from Ahmet Polat’s cousin’s shop in Newtown, were presented to event sponsors. The event was a success thanks to the generous contributions of our sponsors, which included community organisations, universities, local businesses and individual patrons.

Towards evening’s end, four high-profile guests came on stage to share their reflections of the night. They included Australian navy officer Captain Mona Shindy, lawyer Peter Doukas, politician Chris Puplick AM and senior lecturer from UTS, Dr Kathy Egea.

After Dr Egea gave her reflection, Ahmet Polat came on stage to present a special gift to her as a token of appreciation towards her late husband Alan Knight, who was a former Affinity advisory board member and supporter of the organisation.

“Over the course of three years, we developed a beautiful relationship, like that of uncle and nephew. Despite the difference in our cultural backgrounds, we both shared the same values of love and respect for humanity.” he said.

The Vote of Thanks was presented by the Hon. Chief Justice Allsop AO, who remarked that one of the great privileges of living in multicultural Australia was, “observing and experiencing the way in which each new group of Australians feeds the intellectual life of this country.”

The event was concluded by former NSW governor Barrie Unsworth, who presented the concluding remarks. He commented on the grand scale of Affinity’s annual signature event, which served to bridge the gaps between different communities within Australian society.

You can view videos of speeches from the night below.

Welcome Speech by Dr Elizabeth Coombs

Acknowledgement of Country by Stan Grant

Co-host speech by the Hon. Ray Williams MP

Co-host speech by the Hon. Sophie Cotsis MLC

Co-host speech by Ahmet Polat, Executive Director of Affinity Intercultural Foundation

Quran Recitation from Ibrahim Karaisli

Keynote speech by NSW Police Chief Commissioner Michael Fuller APM

Hugh Riminton, MC

Floor Reflection from Captain Mona Shindy CSC RAN

Floor Reflection from Peter Doukas

Floor Reflection from Chris Puplick AM

Floor Reflection from Dr Kathy Egea

Vote of Thanks from the Hon. Chief Justice James Allsop AO

Concluding Remarks from Barrie Unsworth

Photos from the evening