Annual Diversity Debate 2019

29 Oct 2019

Doltone House, Pyrmont

Is backlash good for diversity and inclusion? This is the question moderator Tony Jones posed at this year's DCA & MLC LIfe Insurance Annual Diversity Debate.

Check out this highlights video

DCA members can access the full video and full transcript from Members Area at the bottom of this page.

Annual Diversity Devate: Is it really a good idea to bring your whole self to work?  Major Sponor: NAB; Supporting sponsors: Optus & accenture; Associate sponsors: Bloomberg & Hall Wilcox Smarter Law


Our Debators: For the Negative Team- Chris Varney, Jackie Huggins, Chas Liccardo; with moderator Tony Jones; and the Affirmative Team including Kirsty Webek, Jan Fran and David Hackett

Once again the fabulous Tony Jones,  one of the ABC's most respected journalists and host of ABC TV's Q&A, was back to moderate our Annual Diversity Debate presented by DCA and major sponsor MLC Life Insurance.

Pictures of Tony Jones

The Debate was an entertaining and informative discussion with the Affirmative team withstanding some heartfelt arguments from the Negative side. While more than half of the 450+ audience claimed to have experienced backlash when trying to implement change, the final vote went with the Affirmative team. 61% agreed that backlash is good for diversity and inclusion. 

Photos of Donna Ingram, Susan from MLC and David Morrison at the Podium

Providing the official Welcome to Country, proud Wiradjuri woman Donna Ingram explained her pride in representing her community in this important cultural protocol. "It shows respect for and recognition of the unique position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian culture and history."

Speaking on behalf of major sponsor MLC Life Insurance, Susan Karson wished both teams well ahead of the debate. However, she admitted a leaning towards the Affirmative side, especially as 'the boss' was on that team. She noted that discussions like these provided the opportunity 'to pause, reflect, and open one's mind. And the realisation that others are not always going to agree with you.' 

DCA Chair David Morrison thanked all the speakers and sponsors and DCA membership for supporting the event.

Our Teams: 

The Affirmative Team with Lisa Annese and Tony Jones with sassy expressions on their faces. and the Negative Team with friendly smiles

For the Affirmative:

Determined from the outset, the Affirmative team even tried to psych out the opposition with 'sassy' expressions in the pre-event team photos, As they regularly reminded that audience, it is a long and winding road towards a diverse and inclusive world, and they were clearly in for the long haul.

David Hackett, Chief Executive Officer, MLC Life Insurance. Read David’s biography

David opened the Affirmative's case with an anatomy lesson. He argued that backlash is inevitable. It is the amygdala in our brains which triggers a fight response when under threat. Embracing diversity promises to change an existing order of things, which makes some members of our community nervous. "They feel like they are losing their place. They are being excluded. In these circumstances, people genuinely feel threatened." Backlash is the resulting response.

Kirsty Webeck, Comedian Read Kirsty's biography

"Backlash is inevitable unless the entire world becomes an echo chamber. When understood, embraced and harnessed, it can be a valuable tool for effecting change," explained Kirsty. She confirmed that certain radio commentators should be seen as tools.  She clarified that the Affirmative team were not 'mad for backlash.' "It's more we're saying uh-oh, there it is, what do we do? Let's tackle it."

Jan Fran, Journalist and TV presenter   Read Jan's biography

Jan closed the Affirmative case with "Backlash is not the end of the journey. It is the means by which we get to the end, and the end is equality, the end is justice, the end is inclusiveness, the end is tolerance... The fight is only over when we have won, otherwise backlash or not, it is just another fork in the long and winding road to a more diverse, inclusive world."

Jan Fran, Kirsty Webeck and David Hackett laughing

For the Negative:

The Negative team argued that backlash causes conflict and pain.  It distracts and compromises social progress.

Chris Varney, MD and Chief Enabling Officer, I CAN Network   Read Chris' biography

Chris Varney is accustomed to feedback as the leader of a team of 32 autistic people who are always happy to share their thoughts in a frank and honest way, such as "Chris, I don't like your beard. But I like it better than when you didn't have a beard."  Chris explained,  "There is nothing wrong with people having a say, but I think what we're talking about tonight is quality of backlash where people are hurt."

Jackie Huggins AM Historian and author  Read Jackie's biography

Jackie knows backlash and the impact it has on individuals. "When I think of backlash, a whole numbness goes through me. There is incredible personal pressure that backlash creates. Your social, emotional health and wellbeing are strongly tested and compromised... Backlash is soul-destroying."

Chas Licciardello, Comedian   Read Chas' biography

Closing the Negative argument, Chas argued for co-operation. "You can co-opt, you can distract, you can reach out. It doesn't always work. I admit, sometimes you will still get the backlash anyway. A lot of the time you will get the backlash anyway. But it works sometimes. If you can avoid backlash, it is always, always better because backlash is bad!"

Chris Varney, Jackie Huggins and Chas Liccardiello

The Annual Diversity Debate would not be possible without the support of sponsors and supporters, MLC Life Insurance, Accenture, Universal Music, Hall & Wilcox, IPA and Doltone House.  It was also great to see so many of our members booking full tables and thoroughly enjoying the evening together.

MLC Life Insurance staff and guests enjoying the dinnerAccenture staff and guests enjoying the eveningGuests and sponsors enjoying the eventMore photos of guests and sponsors enjoying the event

See more photos in our Facebook Album.

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