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Plenary Speakers

Senator Zed Seselja, Assistant Minister, Social Services and Multicultural Affairs

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Zed Seselja was sworn in as Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs by the Governor-General on 19 July 2016.

Zed was first elected to the Senate for the Australian Capital Territory in 2013.

Since his election to Parliament, Zed has been appointed to a number of committees including the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme National, the Senate Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Community Affairs, where he served as Chair, and the Senate Select Committee on Health.

Zed is also a KeepWatch Ambassador with the Royal Lifesaving Society, an Ambassador for Focus ACT, Healthy Harold Life Education, Kulture Break, a volunteer for St Vincent de Paul, and was a mentor for Menslink.

Zed was born in Canberra to Croatian immigrant parents and was raised in Tuggeranong Valley. He is married to Roslyn and they have five children.

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.

Tony Burke, MP, Labour

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Tony Burke – Shadow Minister for Multicultural Australia & Citizenship; Shadow Minister for Environment & Water; Shadow Minister for the Arts and Manager of Opposition Business

Tony’s portfolios reflect his lifelong commitments; to modern multicultural Australia, to the environment, and to the arts. In Government Tony Burke was responsible for resolving 100 years of conflict in the Murray-Darling Basin, placing Tasmania’s forests on the World Heritage list, implementing the comprehensive Creative Australia arts and culture policy, and making the second-largest conservation decision in the history of the planet by protecting our oceans. He has led the fight against racial hate speech with the iconic Walk for Respect in the heart of his community in Lakemba.

Dr Richard Di Natale, Leader, Australian Greens

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Dr Richard Di Natale has been the leader of the Australian Greens since May 2015. He was elected to the federal parliament in 2010 and re-elected in 2016. He is the Greens’ first Victorian Senator. His portfolios include health, multiculturalism and sport.

Prior to entering parliament, Richard was a general practitioner and public health specialist. He worked in Aboriginal health in the Northern Territory, on HIV prevention in India and in the drug and alcohol sector.

Richard is the co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends for Drug Policy and Law Reform, the Parliamentary Friends of West Papua and the Parliamentary Friends of Medicine.

Richard, his wife Lucy and two young sons live on a working farm in the foothills of Victoria’s Otway Range. The son of Italian migrants, Richard grew up in Melbourne. He played VFA football for six years and is a long-suffering Richmond Tigers fan.

Dr Tim Soutphommasane,
Race Discrimination Commissioner

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Dr Tim Soutphommasane has been Race Discrimination Commissioner since August 2013. Prior to joining the Australian Human Rights Commission, Tim was a political philosopher and held posts at The University of Sydney and Monash University. His thinking on multiculturalism, patriotism and national identity has been influential in shaping debates in Australia and Britain. 

Tim is the author of four books: I’m Not Racist But … (2015), The Virtuous Citizen (2012), Don’t Go Back To Where You Came From (2012), and Reclaiming Patriotism (2009). He was co-editor (with Nick Dyrenfurth) of All That’s Left (2010). He has been an opinion columnist with The Age and The Weekend Australian newspapers, and presented the documentary series Mongrel Nation on ABC Radio National (2013). Tim is an adjunct professor at the School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Western Sydney University and chairs the Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity.

Born in France and raised in southwest Sydney, Tim holds a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Philosophy (with Distinction) from the University of Oxford, and is a first-class honours graduate of The University of Sydney.

For those interested in the correct pronunciation of Tim’s surname, the phonetic spelling of it is Soot-pom-ma-sarn.

Kate Carnell AO, 
Ombudsman, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise

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Kate Carnell commenced her role as Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) in March 2016.

Kate brings extensive experience and knowledge to the role of Ombudsman, having run her own small businesses for 15 years before becoming ACT Chief Minister in 1995 for a five year period.

Prior to her appointment as the inaugural ASBFEO, Kate held the position of CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents more than 300,000 businesses across Australia. She has also served two years as CEO of beyondblue, four years as CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, four years as CEO of the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) and three years as CEO of the National Association of Forest Industries (NAFI).

Kate is a pharmacist by profession and was the inaugural chair of the ACT Branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the first female to become the National Vice-President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

Kate was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2006 for her services to the community through contributions to economic development and support for the business sector, knowledge industries, the medical sector and medical technology advances.

 Nipuni (Nip) and Gayana Wijewickrema, Co-Founder GG’s Flowers

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Nipuni (Nip) Wijewickrema is a passionate and driven young woman, trying to change the world one flower at a time.

At the age of 20, Nip realised there was a lack of meaningful employment opportunities for people with special needs, specifically ­ her sister Gayana who has Down syndrome. Unable to sit back and let Gayana live a life without purpose, Nip and her family established Canberra’s most­ loved floral business ­ GG’s Flowers.

Gayana Wijewickrema is a fun loving, passionate and well dressed young woman, trying to  change the world, one flower at a time. Gayana is an 18 year old young woman that just happens to have Down Syndrome – but that  doesn’t stop her in her steps.

Currently in year 12, Gayana juggles a demanding school life, whilst also delivering flowers (and  hugs) around Canberra on weekends and after school.

Starting in the bathroom and moving to the garden shed, GG’s Flowers has now grown into a successful and established business that is empowering and employing people with special needs from all walks of life and has delivered beautiful bouquets to thousands of Canberrans.

Nip believes that all people with special needs are capable of leading fulfilling and engaging lives and this can be achieved through meaningful employment. Nip understands that combined with a little bit of love, compassion and patience, her social enterprise has the power to change lives.

Leaving her full­time employment to work for the business was a difficult but necessary milestone. It was a brave step, but meant giving up job security and a good wage to be able to invest her time and money into GG’s Flowers, and do so without a salary. She believes this to be her philanthropic investment in the first of many meaningful employment projects for people with special needs.

Nip speaks openly and honestly about the lack of inclusion in our community and the heart-stopping and gut ­wrenching journey of having a sister with a disability. She proudly talks of the challenges and lessons faced and hopes to inspire other people to start ­ or at the very least, engage with social enterprises.

Nip maintains close connections to the community and has been a volunteer suicide and crisis counsellor for Lifeline Australia for over five years.

In 2016, Nip was named the ACT Young Australian of the Year.

Patrick Abboud, SBS Presenter, The Feed

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The son of Palestinian/ Lebanese parents, Patrick Abboud is an award-winning storyteller, documentary filmmaker and broadcaster. Currently the senior investigative reporter/ presenter on SBS VICELAND’s nightly program The Feed, Pat is passionate about uncovering stories you never knew existed.


For more than 10 years Pat’s been committed to reporting on discrimination against LGBTQI communities around the world, particularly in many countries where homosexuality is still punishable by imprisonment or death.


While working for Dateline Pat gained unprecedented access inside Indonesia’s notorious morality police squad. His program ‘Sharia Showdown’ exposed brutal persecution of women and LGBTQI people in Indonesia. Pat’s fearless storytelling has also brought to light the heartbreaking stories of youth at risk of harm in Australia’s Muslim LGBTQI communities. Australia’s first openly Gay Imam chose Patrick to tell his brave coming out story. The program ‘Meet Australia’s first openly gay Imam’ has contributed to securing further funding for an underground support group and safe meeting space for closeted LGBTQI Muslims. In 2016 alone, Pat exposed discrimination against transgender people in the Australian Defence Force, homophobia in the NSW Police force and investigated unsolved gay hate crimes.


Pat is also co-host, writer and director for the SBS Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras broadcast. The recipient of the 2016 LGBTQI Honour Award for outstanding journalism & broadcasting, Pat is also a Walkley and 3 times United Nations Media award nominee for his unique storytelling across multiple platforms. Pat has also recently been nominated for the international LGBTQI Journalist of the year award and the Australian LGBTI Awards 2018 Journalist of the Year.


Described as ‘Must Watch TV’ ( ‘Every Australian Needs to see this’ (The Guardian) his most recent documentary ‘Breaking Point: Bullying’s deadly toll’ exposes the epidemic of bullying in Australian schools. The piece resulted in a national campaign lobbying Government to change policy and legislation across the country to better protect children.


Being a big cinema buff, he’s very excited about his new show Mardi Gras Movies which debuted on SBS VICELAND February 2017 featuring the best in queer film from around the globe and exclusive filmmaker interviews. In his tenth year of storytelling, 2017 will see Pat continue bringing the people and places that matter to your screens.


Jenevieve Chang, Author

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Jenevieve Chang is a writer, performing artist and movement director with a career spanning Australia, the UK and China. She trained at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

In Australia, she has worked with Sidetrack Performance Group, Urban Theatre Projects, State of Play and Legs on the Wall as well as Chopped Logic, Yellow Earth Theatre and the poet Benjamin Zephanaiah in the UK.

In 2008, Jenevieve was awarded an Arts Council UK grant to develop a solo performance in China  Following this period, Jenevieve spent 3 years living and working in Shanghai where she co-founded Fifth Wall – a collective of artists developing intercultural performance; and was Show Manager of China’s first Vaudeville, Variety and Burlesque club.

Returning to Australia, Jenevieve worked as Senior Course Manager at NIDA and performed in Stories Then and Now, presented by Contemporary Asian Australian Performance (CAAP). Most recently, Jenevieve starred in Monkey Baa Theatre’s The Peasant Prince, the award-winning stage adaptation of Mao’s Last Dancer.

Jenevieve served on Griffin Theatre’s Emerging Cultural Leadership Program in 2013 and returned to China to take part in Australian Writer’s Week 2014 for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Bookworm Literary Festival. 

Her memoir The Good Girl of Chinatown was published by Penguin Random House in 2017.

Confirmed Concurrent Session Speakers

Mohammad Al-Khafaji, CEO, Welcome to Australia

Des Cahill, Professor of Intercultural Studies, RMIT University, Melbourne

Dr Mimmie Claudine Ngum Chi Watts, Victoria University

Teresa Corbin, CEO, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network

Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, Executive Director, Refugee Advice and Casework Service

Dr. Andrew Jakubowicz, Professor of Sociology, University of Technology Sydney

Professor Dr. Fethi Mansouri, Director, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation

Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council

Dr Monica Trujillo, Executive General Manager, Australian Digital Health Agency

If you are under 25 years old and wish to attend the Youth Day please click the link below to apply.

Thank you to our 2017 Sponsors and Exhibitors:

Major Supporter

Government Partner

8 – 10 October 2017


Darwin Convention Centre
Stokes Hill Road,
Darwin, NT 0800

Key Dates

April 2017
Registration Opens

26 July 2017
Abstract Submission Deadline

9 August 2017
Notification of Abstract Acceptance 

16 August 2017
Early Bird Registration Deadline

8 October 2017
Conference Commences