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The Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity was launched on 21 March by Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane. It featured a panel discussion with Council members Ian Narev and Michelle Guthrie, as well as author and journalist Benjamin Law, and Amnesty Indigenous Rights campaigner Roxanne Moore. ABC presenter Kumi Taguchi was master of ceremonies.
Mr Narev said: “Diversity is critical to long term business success. We need to mirror the people, businesses and communities that we exist to serve.
“To do so, we need an inclusive culture, where everyone feels motivated and inspired to give of his or her best. Embracing all the cultures that comprise Australian society is a business imperative.”
Dr Soutphommasane said the Leading for Change report identified a significant lack of cultural diversity in Australia’s leadership positions. He urged corporate leaders to improve cultural diversity by setting diversity targets in employment and to counter bias by expanding professional development programs.
“Progress on cultural diversity requires leadership. Cultural change is only possible when it is driven from the top. This council will provide some of that leadership,” Dr Soutphommasane said.
Reflecting on whether merit should be the sole criteria for appointment, the ABC’s Michelle Guthrie said she found it hard to believe that in the 84-year history of the national broadcaster, she was the only woman that had the merit to lead the organisation.
“I’m not a believer in quotas,” she said, “but I do believe targets are important.”
Asked if it is important to have other leaders and chief executives on board with the Leadership Coucil, Ms Guthrie said: “It’s important that we share our experiences, but I also think it’s important to have leaders reflect on what’s happening in their own organisation, and to think about the pipeline [of leaders] and potential blockages” to culturally diverse leadership.”
The next meeting and public event of the Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity will take place on 10 August 2017 at Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Melbourne.