Landmark conference on governance for faith-based communities

Hundreds of leaders from more than 17 faith-based communities met in Melbourne in December 2017 for the world’s first conference on faith-based governance.

Hosted by the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre at Victoria University, the Faith-Based Governance & Dispute Resolution Conference was held to coincide with the delivery of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Report to government. The Sir Zelman Cowen Centre recognised that there was a genuine eagerness to address governance failures of the past, and sought to build on this community momentum.

The Conference provided a unique opportunity for interfaith communities to learn from each other to shape their responses to a significant community concern and improve their governance for the benefit of their communities.

The conference attracted significant media coverage including articles in ProBono News, the Law Institute Journal and several faith-based publications.

The program opened with a joint musical performance by muezzin (Muslim leader of the call to prayer), Sheik Ala El Zokm and Indigenous didgeridoo player, Brent Watkins.

In the opening keynote address, Justice Jennifer Coates from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse highlighted the need to radically change approaches to transparency, accountability and protection of the vulnerable in faith-based organisations.

“We are at a crossroads moment in our nation and every single one of you in this room has a part to play.” Coates said.

She highlighted that the final report would provide recommendations to change laws, policies, and practices to strengthen to prevention of and response to sexual abuse of children.

More than 340 community leaders, agency representatives, regulators and experts attended the conference. Delegates were provided with new knowledge, skills and resources to meet the challenges of increased regulatory scrutiny and heightened community expectations.

An expert interfaith forum provided the opportunity for knowledge exchange for groups that share similar challenges, allowing attendees to contextualise their own experiences while learning about those of others.

Attendees have indicated strong interest in continuing to strengthen their organisations through tailored governance training. The Sir Zelman Cowen Centre will be exploring the possibility of future governance training offerings in this area of genuine need.

The SZCC is grateful to our supporters who made the conference possible.

Watch our short conference overview video and view photos.

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