DCA Debate 2019

2019 debate banner

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

More on the debate topic:

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.

Panelists for the AFFIRMATIVE

'Backlash IS good for D&I'

Headshots for affirmative team

Jan Fran, Journalist and TV Presenter

Jan Fran is the creator, writer and presenter of the online opinion segment, The Frant, and her videos have been viewed more than 18 million times since she first started making them in 2018.

Jan is also a Walkley-award losing journalist and TV presenter who is best known for hosting The Feed on SBSVICELAND, Medicine or Myth on SBS, The Project on Network Ten and the podcasts, Sexism and the City and The Few Who Do.

Jan has shot and produced documentaries from all over the world for TV networks and brands and has appeared as a commentator on Q&A, ABC Breakfast, Studio 10, The Latest, The Today Show, Insiders, The Drum and Triple J’s Hack.

Jan is an ambassador for Plan International Australia where she advocates for women and girls and her strong reporting on women’s issues earned her a 2018 Walkley nomination for Women’s Leadership in Media.

In 2010 Jan moved to Bangladesh where she spent one year living in Dhaka and working as a communications specialist for UNICEF. She has also lived in Lebanon, France and Uganda. She speaks three languages, most of them terribly.

David Hackett, Chief Executive Officer, 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.

Kirsty Webeck, Comedian

Kirsty Webeck has won hearts all over the country with her upbeat and relatable brand of comedy that is often described as “playful, light-hearted and fun.” A gifted storyteller, she has a natural ability for turning the mundane into the hilarious. Kirsty is a regular on the Australian comedy circuit, and an in-demand MC, speaker and radio guest.

Kirsty entered the Australian comedy circuit in 2013 in an unconventional way. After doing a five minute set at the end of a comedy workshop she, having never heard of an open mic room, launched straight into writing and performing a full-length show. Employing her public relations background she sold over 100 tickets in her hometown, Canberra.

No stranger to hard work, Kirsty, used this show as a launching pad to build a professional stand-up career from the ground up over the next few years.

Born in Canberra in 1982, as the second child in the Webeck family, Kirsty thrived for two years before a younger sister entered the scene, immediately rendering her a middle child. Over the next 18 years, she settled comfortably into the role, getting caught up in all sorts of scandals and triumphs which have informed her propensity to see the humour in everyday situations.

She’s a regular guest on ABC radio and in 2018, she was the featured comedian on an episode of The ABC’s “Tonightly With Tom Ballard.” She also toured regional WA in 2019 with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow, and opened for Joel Creasey at sold-out shows at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney and The Astor Theatre in Perth. Among many other things, she spoke at marriage equality rallies in the lead up to the postal survey. She performed at the ‘Australia Says ‘Yes’ Comedy Gala’. She’s been seen at The Melbourne Writers Festival for the past two years, has hosted The GLORIAs at NSW Parliament House for the past three years, and was recently a panellist at The Australian Women’s Leadership Symposium.

Panelists for the NEGATIVE

'Backlash IS NOT good for D&I'

Headshots for negative team

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.