The glamorous Annual Premiers Iftar Dinner 2021 was hosted by Acting Premier Honorable James Merlino MP at Melbourne’s prestigious landmark venue, Grand Hyatt on Monday 10 May.

The prestigious tradition of the Annual Iftar Dinner was first established by Premier Daniel Andrews, who was sorely missed at this event.

The event MC was Iman Balla, who began with inviting prominent Melbournian Imam Alaa Elzokm, for the beautiful opening Quran Recitation.

From left: The. Hon James Merlino MP, Acting Premier, Iman Balla, MC and The Hon. Ros Spence MP, Minister for Multicultural Affairs

Imam Alaa also said a heartfelt opening prayer,  setting the tone of inclusion and collaboration towards the coming good by stating,  “Oh our Lord we ask you to heal the hearts of all the families who have lost their loved ones during the pandemic, help humanity get over this virus… keep us all safe from any harm.  Oh our Lord, spread peace amongst humanity, unite our hearts and bring us close together so we can work for the betterment of our country, Australia.”

Sheikh Dr Mohammed Abu Omar performed a very moving Athaan, sighting the time for iftaar, the breaking of the fast.

The speech of the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, reflected on the community leaders who work hard for the prosperity of our state and reflected on the difficult year that had passed where the the mosques were closed and even the call to prayer was telling people to pray at their homes. 

He expressed that, “Religion has been one of the vital means of supporting individuals in the face of adversity and tribulations.  We need to establish a strong values system… we are all brothers and sisters in humanity of different races, religions and civilisations….”

From left; Noori Ahmed, Tasneem Chopra OAM, Health Minister Dr. Brett Sutton, Gulhan Yoldas

Acting Premier Honourable MP James Merlino began his speech with a heartfelt ‘Assalamualeykum.’ 

Mr James Merlino MP reflected that this event had bipartisan support, with both sides of the isle of state government represented.  He also acknowledged “every member of the community who’s working together to make our state (of Victoria) more tolerant and inclusive,” and gave good news that Premier Daniel Andrews was recovering well.

Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ros Spence (right) with community leaders

He explained that this event is, “A symbol of the importance of the Muslim community in Victoria and the contributions that you make to our state.  Our government is proud to stand alongside you and we always will be.” 

Mr Merlino reflected on others around the world who are observing Ramadhan in the most trying of circumstances.  On behalf of the Victoria Government, MP James Merlino ended his speech by thanking each and every community leader who worked tirelessly to keep their loved ones safe and their communities safe.

Host of the event, Acting Premier Hon MP James Merlino

Ms Ros Spence MP reflected on the past year where she worked alongside multicultural communities and praised the “Strength, determination, compassion and care of everyone who supported one another across Victoria.” 

She pointed out the “invaluable role our community leaders played in communicating vital information, providing well-being support and advocating for the specific needs of their community.  Our multicultural and multi faith leaders were present, and they led from the frontline.”

Diana Sayed
CEO Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights

Keynote speaker, CEO of Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, Diana Sayed gave a powerful speech specifically acknowledging that “I am not self made.  I’m community made.  I’m family made, ancestor made. I stand before you carrying the enormous legacy of Muslim women who had the incredible foresight, wisdom and entrepreneurial spirit, to understand that Muslim women needed specialised services and programs.” 

She paid tribute to the Palestinian families at Sheikh Jarrah and the attacks on peaceful prayergoers at Al Aqsa mosque, expressing thoughts and prayers to be with our brothers and sisters in Palestine.  She closed by saying, “We need meaningful engagement in order to see accurate representation of our communities and their needs.  This means engaging from the beginning and being a strong voice and advocate.”

Left: Gulhan Yoldas, Rabi Gabi Kaltmann, Esma Yoldas, Hana Assafiri, Manal Shehab, Lutfiye Akin

Prayers were made for the complete recovery of Premier Daniel Andrews with hopes of seeing him back at his post, leading Victoria forward.

We thank the Honourable Acting Premier James Merlino for this generous invitation and continuing the tradition of the Annual Premier’s Iftar Dinner in Victoria.



MP Bronwyn Halfpenny (centre) with community leaders