DCA Debate 2019


Backlash: is it good for diversity and inclusion (D&I)?

Diversity Council Australia and MLC Life Insurance are delighted to invite you to the 2019 Annual Diversity Debate, moderated by Tony Jones, one of the ABC's most respected journalists and host of ABC TV's Q&A. 


WHEN: Tuesday 29 October 2019 (AEDT)

WHERE:  Doltone House Darling Island, Ground Floor, 48 Pirrama Rd, Pyrmont, Sydney

WHAT: Includes pre-dinner canapés and drinks followed by two course dinner during Debate

DRESSCorporate attire


Anyone agitating for change – especially D&I professionals in the workplace – would be no stranger to backlash. But is a strong negative reaction such a bad thing? Could it mean people are listening and might change their minds? And it is inevitable if you want to challenge the status quo?

On the flip side, does backlash mean people don’t agree and will never get on board? Does it mean that you’re going about it the wrong way? And can it come with too much personal cost for those trying to achieve it?

So is backlash a force for good or evil? A force for change or a sign of defeat? That is the question we tackle at this year’s Debate.


For DCA members: $300 incl. GST per person or $2,900 incl. GST for a table of 10 guests
For non-members: $350 incl. GST per person or $3,400 incl. GST for a table of 10 guests


We sincerely thank MLC Life Insurance as the Major Sponsor along with Accenture and Universal Music as Support Sponsors and Hall & Wilcox, IPA and Doltone House as Associate Sponsors.

'Backlash IS good for D&I'

Magda Szubanski AO, Actor, Writer, Advocate 

Magda has been famous for making Australia laugh for over three decades, but more recently she was named the “Most Talked about Person of 2017” following what many have called her ‘crucial role’ in the complex and difficult 2017 Same-Sex Marriage Survey. Sydney Morning Herald: “When describing her efforts, other equality advocates use terms such as ‘invaluable’ and ‘devastatingly effective’. But popularity alone does not change hearts or minds. What made a difference, they believe, is the way Szubanski campaigned.” She advocated tirelessly, making the case for equality with reason and dignity – her most notable appearances included a pivotal debate on the ABC’s Q&A, interviews on A Current Affair and an address she gave at the National Press Club, 'What it feels like to be an unwilling human guinea pig in a political experiment'. In 2012, Magda came out live on national TV and has been an active and high-profile campaigner for LGBTI+ rights ever since. She is patron of Twenty10, an ambassador for the Pinnacle Foundation and also volunteered for the Orlando Victims’ Fundraiser concerts in Melbourne and Sydney. She has spoken at numerous Marriage Equality fundraisers.

Vogue Australia included her in their list of 2018 “Game Changers” for her work on the Marriage Equality campaign.

Magda has received many accolades over the course of her career, including a Mo Award, seven Logie Awards, three AWGIE Awards, two People’s Choice Awards, two Astra Awards and the AFI for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Australia’s favourite second-best friend, Sharon Strzelecki, a character she created herself. It has just been announced that she has been awarded the 2018 Victorian Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership by Women and Leadership Australia. She is also the 2018 recipient of the nation’s top free speech honour, the Voltaire Award, given by Australia’s oldest human rights organization, Liberty Victoria.

Magda completed a Bachelor of Arts at Melbourne University, majoring in Philosophy and Fine Arts. After early training with the ABC-TV cult show D-Generation, Magda shot to fame in 1989 in response to the huge variety of comic characters she created. For over thirty years Magda has survived and thrived at the top of the show business tree- a notoriously fickle and competitive industry. For three decades she has been a household name as one of Australia’s most loved and respected actors, writers and producers. She was a key player in some of this country’s most successful, iconic and groundbreaking shows - Kath and Kim, Fast Forward, D-Generation, and Big Girl’s Blouse, sketch comedy Fast Forward, which played for several seasons and became one of Australia’s highest-rating comedies. She had an emotional journey when the SBS television show Who Do you think You Are? did a story on her family’s heritage.  

Film credits include Babe, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, alongside the late Steve Irwin and The Golden Compass, with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. Australian films Dr Plonk directed by Rolf de Heer, Bran Nu Dae by Rachel Perkins and starring alongside Ronan Keating in the musical comedy, Goddess in 2013. In 2017 she starred opposite Michael Caton in Ben Elton’s Three Summers

Magda’s many stage appearances include hit productions of Guys and Dolls, the late Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore, The Melbourne Theatre Company production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the national tour of Grease: The Arena Spectacular with John Farnham. In 2012 she performed alongside Geoffrey Rush and Hugh Sheridan in Simon Phillip’s A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

More recently she has become a best-selling, award-winning author, following the release of her internationally acclaimed memoir Reckoning. Released late 2015, Reckoning won a slew of literary awards including winner of the 2016 ABIA Book of the Year, Biography of the Year, Booksellers Choice Award, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, the Indie Award for Non-Fiction; Winner Victorian Community History Award and was shortlisted for several more awards including the National Biography Award.

David Hackett, Chief Executive Office, MLC Life Insurance 

David is Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of MLC Life Insurance.

Prior to joining MLC Life Insurance David held the role of Executive General Manager Insurance for NAB’s wealth management business. He was responsible for managing distribution, product, claims, operations and was also the Chief Actuary for the Life Insurance business which serviced Retail, Bancassurance, Direct and Group Insurance customers across NAB and MLC.

At NAB, David was Executive General Manager of Retail Wealth Products from 2013-2016, CFO Products and Markets in 2013 and CFO Wholesale Banking from 2010-2013. Prior to joining NAB, David held a variety of roles in Australia and Japan including Aozora Bank (formerly Nippon Credit Bank), Nikko Citigroup, UBS Japan, SBC Warburg Australia and Deutsche Bank Australia.

David holds an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne.

Lucy Zelić, Football Presenter SBS

A passionate football journalist and lifelong sports fan, Lucy Zelic has been a key member of SBS’s football coverage team since 2013.

Lucy currently hosts SBS’s flagship football news program The World Game (Mondays, 11pm), appears as a sports presenter on SBS World News, writes for The World Game online and presents SBS’s coverage of local and international football including the Premier League, the UEFA Champions League, and more.

In 2014, Lucy hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches from the Sydney studios. The 2014 FIFA World Cup was Lucy’s first World Cup for SBS. In 2015 she hosted the Australian matches and the finals for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Prior to joining SBS Lucy was well known amongst football fans from her work on the official podcast of the Hyundai A-League, which she hosted for the 2012-13 season. A seasoned radio host and presenter, Lucy was the commentator for all Canberra United home games in the Westfield W-League on 2XXFM and was a regular guest on the popular Balls n’ All show on 106.3FM. She has also hosted the nationally streamed football podcast Nearpost and holds a Bachelor in Journalism and Sports Business from the University of Canberra.

Lucy and co-presenter Craig Foster recently accepted the Silver Logie at the 2019 TV WEEK Logie Awards for Most Outstanding Sports Coverage for the work presenting the 2018 FIFA™ World Cup.

'Backlash IS NOT good for D&I'

Chas Licciardello, Comedian, The Chaser 

Chas is a member of the comedy crew, The Chaser. His television career began in 2001 when he appeared on The Chaser Decides. This show satirized the then-upcoming Australian Federal Elections. He also appeared on these spin-off series, in 2004 and 2007.

He then appeared on the CNNNN program, for two seasons, airing in 2002 and 2003.

Licciardello’s popularity with Australian television viewers, and the media, along with the other members of The Chaser team, rose in 2006. He appeared on The Chaser’s War on Everything, for three seasons, airing in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

In 2010, Chas appeared on Yes We Canberra!. In 2011 and 2012, he also appeared on The Hamster Wheel.

In 2012, Chas co-hosted Planet America on ABC News 24. This show focused on the American political story, leading towards the Presidential Elections that were held in November 2012. In early 2016 Licciardello resumed his hosting duties of “Planet America”, in the lead up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential and Congressional Elections in November 2016.

Jackie Huggins AM, Historian and Author

Jackie is a Bidjara (central Queensland) and Birri-Gubba Juru (North Queensland) woman from Queensland who has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs for over thirty years.

Jackie is a celebrated historian and author who has documented the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the decades. In 2001, Jackie received the Member of the Order of Australia for services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Throughout her career spanning over four decades, Jackie has played a leading role in reconciliation, literacy, women’s issues and social justice.

Chris Varney, MD and Chief Enabling Officer, I Can Network 

In the past year alone, I CAN Network has mentored 1,052 Autistic kids, teenagers and adults nationwide through schools, TAFEs, workplaces, camps and online programs. Since inception in 2013, I CAN Network has employed 34 Autistic people to deliver mentoring programs.

Chris has a background in children’s rights. Chris spent 11 years with World Vision Australia and World Vision International where his roles included Youth Ambassador, VGen Co-Director and Manager of Youth Supporters. VGen was instrumental in achieving commitments to fair-trade from big chocolate companies.

In 2009 Chris was Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations. In this role Chris successfully campaigned for the closure of the Magill Training Centre and created Dear Kevin: a book of 789 handwritten letters by children and young people given to then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Chris’ efforts as Youth Representative were recognised in this letter from then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Chris used the stories from Dear Kevin to inform his work on the steering committee of the Australian Child Rights NGO Taskforce. The Taskforce successfully influenced the creation of Australia’s national Children’s Commission.

In addition to I CAN, Chris is currently an advisor on Autism to the Queensland Government and is Patron of the Australian Association for Special Education.