The University of Sydney, the oldest Australian university is proactively aiming to produce leaders for a diverse Australia, its Vice Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence articulated at a recent luncheon held in Sydney.
Dr Spence was the keynote speaker at Sydney city offices of the Affinity Intercultural Foundation during the Affinity Lecture Series with the topic “The role of tertiary education in fostering harmony” held on Thursday 25 August 2016.
The August session of the monthly Affinity Lecture Series attracted more than hundred strong diverse audience including academics from various disciplines, clerics, interfaith activists, community leaders, journalists and students.
The welcome address and introduction to the keynote speaker was given by Professor Rosemary Johnson from UTS while the question and answer session was facilitated by the Deputy Chancellor of the University of New England Jan McClelland AM.
Professor Johnson introduced Dr Spence, 54 as the 25th Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney who completed his education in English and law from the same University and then moved to Oxford University where he completed his doctorate as well as a postgraduate Diploma in Theology. He worked at the University of Oxford for 20 years as an academic and administrator before moving back in 2008 to take the VC position at the University of Sydney.
Dr Spence said the founding vision of the University of Sydney was based on pursuit of excellence and community service. He claimed that while Australia had an entrenched White Australia policy, the University of Sydney held the distinction of being the first University to admit students based on merit and welcomed people of all faiths while other universities throughout the world admitted students based on various elitist criteria and family connections.
Elaborating on the topic for his address, he said that universities by their very nature provide platform for fostering harmony where people from diverse background and ideas could freely discuss and disagree respectfully.
Dr Spence admitted that Universities just like the corporate and political structures in Australia presented a monochrome image that did not represent the diversity of Multicultural Australia.
He said that while the University of Sydney had set up staff targets for indigenous Australians and woman, there were no targets as yet for people of non-European backgrounds.
Dr Spence was keen on education, understanding and sharing of basic information on diverse great world views amongst his staff and students. He said that he had initiated a cultural competence training program at the University, first for staff to be followed up by students.
He also mentioned of his meetings with members of the Sydney University Muslim Students’ Association (SUMSA) in order to address instances of Islamophobia activity at the campus during the past couple of years.
At the conclusion of the program, Mr Ahmet Polat, Executive Director of Affinity announced the presentation of certificate of appreciation for the Galaxy Foundation for their support and thanked all the guests for their participation at the event.