The Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Mr Chin Tan, while acknowledging “our multicultural society to be most successful,” has called on Australians to “find and redefine the role of cultural diversity” and said that  it is “time for another look at the 21st century multiculturalism.” He was the keynote speaker at the Affinity lecture series held in Sydney on Wednesday 4 December.

Ms Elizabeth Espinosa.

The event was part of the ongoing and highly successful Affinity Lecture Series held during lunch times at Affinity offices in Pitt Street, Sydney that highlights important issues facing the community by inviting most competent speakers articulating their ideas through lectures followed by couch dialogues.

The lecture by Mr Chin Tan on the topic “Valuing diverse leadership in the 21st century” and the follow up dialogue was facilitated by the President of Australian Law Society, Ms Elizabeth Espinosa.

Mr Tan commenced his term as Race Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission in October 2018. Prior to joining the Commission, he spent three years as the Director for Multicultural Engagement at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

Mr Chin Tan.

The full house audience were welcomed by Ms Pauline Wright, President-elect of the Law Council of Australia (immediate past President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties) and a member of the Affinity Advisory Board.

Mr Tan began his lecture with the affirmation of his role as a race discrimination commissioner that is intricately related to diversity as outlined in the Race Discrimination Act article 28. He highlighted the needs for action in promoting diversity as this interrelates with social cohesion.

Mr Chin Tan began by trying to answer an important question: “What is diversity?”

Mr Chin Tan.

During his address, while acknowledging, our multicultural society in Australia to be the “most successful”, he said that there are still challenges and we need to clearly understand what exactly we mean by diversity.

Mr Tan pointed out that recent Australian Bureau Statistics (ABS) census in 2016 displays the prominent presence of diversity and Multiculturalism as well. It is something we cannot simply avoid today, but we must further educate the communities to reinforce the reality of diversity. 

Mr Tan stresses that our leaders should be in the right mindset whilst believing and understanding cultural diversity in order for them to articulate, understand and accept diversity within our pluralistic nation, ‘get it’ and actively make policies accordingly.

This could be achieved if leaders can “accept and welcome all different people and fully empathise with diverse people”.

Mr Chin Tan. Photo by Zia Ahmad.

He urged the audience to realise that it is “time for another look at the 21st century multiculturalism” and to think and understand the pitfalls and aspirations and create a platform to further discuss important issues facing the nation.

There was  need to improve multiculturalism with better leaders who understand and open national conversations. 

Mr Tan said that we must “find and redefine the role of cultural diversity”  and drew upon a quote that we need to pave a way for the future generations by building a bridge for them to walk on.

He concluded by saying that a vital note to take in consideration is to see human rights as important and bring communities together within Australia’s treasure of human rights in this democratic and free nation to offer the best protection to human dignity and rights. 

The keynote lecture  was followed by a couch discussion between Mr Chin Tan and Ms Elizabeth Espinosa with topics including the role of targets to bring organisation and support to increase diversity, the response needed for the rising concerns of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, the role of social media today with diversity and different campaigns to address challenges such as Racism it Stops with Me Campaign.

In couch conversation: Mr Chin Tan with Ms Elizabeth Espinosa

Towards the end of the formal program, gifts of appreciation were handed to Mr Chin Tan from Mr Peter Doukas, Chair of Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW. Mr Tan presented a gift of appreciation to Ms Pauline Wright, while Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher presented a gift of appreciation to Ms Elizabeth Espinosa.

Finally, the program ended with Executive Director of Affinity, Mr Ahmet Polat with his  closing remarks saying that diversity is indeed a natural dimension of our nation, as was stated by the NSW Governor The Hon Margaret Beazley, who said “Being different is normal in Australia”. He further added that it was “necessary to accept diversity as a source of enrichment that needs to be woven into our leadership roles in the Australian culture.”

Mr Chin Tan with Mr Peter Doukas, Chair of Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW.


Mr Chin Tan with Ms Pauline Wright, Member of the Affinity Advisory Board.


Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher with Ms Elizabeth Espinosa.