For the affirmative - Racism is holding Australia back:
- Helen Szoke, Race Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
- Jason Glanville, CEO, National Centre of Indigenous Excellence
- Silma Ihram, Project Manager, the Australian Muslim Women’s Association
For the negative - Racism is not holding Australia back:
- Joe Hildebrand, journalist
- Sophie Crawford-Jones, Strategic Sales & Marketing, PwC
- Vish Viswanathan, Past President of the Federation of Australian Indian Associations
Dr Helen Szoke was appointed as Australia’s full time Race Discrimination Commissioner on 5th September 2011 for a five year term.
Up until her appointment, Helen Szoke was the Commissioner with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and worked with the Commission from 2004 until August 2011. During this period she managed the expansion of the Commission’s functions under the Charter of Human Rights Act and the modernisation of the Equal Opportunity Act in that state.
She is currently Co-Chair of Play by the Rules, a Board Member of Multicultural Arts Victoria and a member of the Advisory Committee for the Centre for International Mental Health, School of Population Health University of Melbourne.
Helen has previously held positions relating to management, community development, organisational development and regulation in the education and health sectors.
She has held various other Statutory and Directors positions including the Adult Migrant Education Services, National Health and Medical Research Licensing Committee, Consumers Health Forum, the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Key Centre for Women’s Health, Women’s Health Victoria and various community agencies. She also served one term as a local city councillor.
Helen is a Patron of New Beginnings which is an NGO set up to deal with peaceful conflict resolution with a focus on people of African Descent.
She is also Patron of the Australian Arabic Women's Foundation Inc, which aims to empower, encourage and support women from Arabic backgrounds to become independent.
In 2011, Helen was awarded the Law Institute of Victoria Paul Baker Award for contribution to Human Rights.
Jason Glanville is a member of the Wiradjuri peoples from south-western New South Wales. He is the inaugural CEO of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) based in Redfern. Prior to joining the NCIE Jason was Director of Programs and Strategy at Reconciliation Australia.
Over the last twenty years Jason has worked in a range of positions in community-based Indigenous organisations, State and Federal Governments and non-government peak organisations.
Jason is Chair of the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute and on the boards of Reconciliation Australia, the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre and Carriageworks. He is also a Trustee of the Australian Museum and a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Indigenous Policy. Jason was a member of the Steering Committee for the creation of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
Jason is a member of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Indigenous Advisory Panel and a member of the University of Technology’s Vice Chancellor’s Indigenous Advisory Committee. In 2010 Jason was named in the (sydney) magazine’s 100 most influential people of Sydney and in 2011 he was featured in Boss Magazine’s True Leaders of 2011 list.
Silma Ihram is the Project Manager and Founding President of the Australian Muslim Women's Association. She also runs an education consultancy and an RTO – Diversity Skills Training, which assists refugees and migrants to obtain skills and qualifications for the workplace.
Silma established the first Muslim school in NSW – Al Noori Muslim Primary, and one of the first secondary schools – Noor al Houda Islamic College and served as Principal for both. An active member of the Muslim community she has been a founding member of the Muslim Women's National Network and the Australian Council for Islamic Education in Schools.
She has conducted research on Muslim youth in Sydney for her Masters research, Muslim women converts, and barriers to Muslim women in employment. She was awarded the Centenary Medal for her work in the community.
Joe Hildebrand is a journalist and columnist for The Daily Telegraph, Sydney’s biggest newspaper, where he is currently Opinion and Inside Edition editor.
Prior to this he was a prominent political reporter for the paper, being the only journalist to follow Kevin Rudd on his “fork in the road” tour, covering his 2007 election win from start to finish and commentating live on his assassination on the Seven Network. He also worked for several years in the NSW parliamentary press gallery.
He has close personal and professional relationships with senior figures on both sides of politics.
Joe was also the host of the ABC2 flagship TV series Dumb, Drunk and Racist.
He is a regular commentator on the ABC (Q&A, The Drum), Seven Network (Sunrise, The Morning Show), Network Ten (The Project), Sky News (PM Live) and a host of radio stations, including 2GB, 4BC and ABC.
He was recently named one of the top ten most influential Australians on Twitter.
He is a Walkley finalist (receiving two commendations), a News Award winner and frequent Walkley judge.
Prior to joining the Telegraph, he was NSW political correspondent for Australian Associated Press and also worked for a time in London for the Press Association.
He has been a full-time professional journalist for 12 years, since coming to Sydney in 2000.
Sophie Crawford-Jones holds a BA Hons degree in French with Business from Kings College, London. She has consulted in the HR arena in London, New York and Asia for number of years and joined PwC's Human Capital team in 2003 where she is currently the Australian Human Capital Leader.
As a member of the Australian Firm Executive, Sophie has helped to enable a truly business focussed approach to the people agenda. Sophie has been recognised for her strong business acumen and her outstanding ability to develop extensive, trust based relationships with her clients and teams. These attributes have seen her become a sought after business partner.
Until recently serving as President of Federation of Australian Indian Associations (FAIA) and Secretary of SRI OM Foundation, Vish Viswanathan is a well known leader in the Australian Indian community known for his passionate service to and active participation in community initiatives for new migrant settlement, immigration, Indian students and Indian seniors over two decades in Sydney.
Fondly known as Vish, he has served in executive roles in many community organisations such as United Indian Associations (UIA), Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sydney Tamil Manram, Hindu Council of Australia etc. Vish was a member of the Indian Consulate Committee for Student Affairs and the NSW Premier’s Community Committee and actively worked with various State and Federal Government agencies in identifying resolutions to complex student issues...Vish was also involved in many community charity initiatives and recently organised the NDTV Greenathon event in Sydney for supporting rural villages in india.
Vish as a member of the Australia India Business Council is engaged in identifying opportunities for investments in Australia particularly in NSW.
An electronic engineer by profession, Vish migrated to Australia in 1989 as a skilled migrant from India with his wife and two daughters after serving over 15 years with leading Indian business groups such as the TATAs. Vish is currently serving as Senior Procurement Specialist, Department of Finance & Services NSW Government over 20 years.
Over long years Vish also wore a journalistic hat writing community columns and articles in popular Indian community journals such as Indian Down Under, India Post, Indian Link, Hindi Gaurav etc.
Hobbies which Vish enjoys include Bollywood movies, Indian Music ,reading political articles and playing with his grand daughter.
As also a Community Ambassador to SBS Television, Vish believes that every Australian Indian is contributing to Multicultural Australia and hopes one day Australia will become a Republic.