We work with diverse communities to promote:

  • multiculturalism
  • social cohesion
  • equal opportunity.

County Court Community Engagement Day

The second County Court Community Engagement Day was co-facilitated by the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre for the County Court of Victoria on 6 October 2019, following the development and delivery of the inaugural community engagement day in 2018.

County Court of Victoria Chief Judge Peter Kidd welcomed more than 20 community and support service leaders for a day of discussion and education. Participating leaders had the opportunity to:

  • learn about the County Court and its processes
  • gain crucial skills, resources and support to share their knowledge with their communities
  • challenge their thinking about the legal system and the role of judges in sentencing.

The SZCC was pleased to work with the County Court of Victoria to deliver the Community Engagement Days, which are a positive step towards improving the Court's connection with the Victorian community and increasing public awareness of the Court's work.

Faith-based training

The Sir Zelman Cowen Centre has expertise in working with multicultural and multi-faith communities. We host a range of events and specialised training programs.

The Faith-Based Governance & Dispute Resolution Conference was the first of its kind, bringing together community leaders, agencies, regulators and experts to consider best practice in governance and dispute resolution in light of the Royal Commissions.

This major event was attended by 340 delegates, from 17 different faith groups.

Delegates heard directly from two Royal Commissioners, representatives from government regulators, and expert governance and dispute resolution researchers and practitioners.

If your organisation is interested in attending future training on this topic, please email [email protected].

The Aspire program provides leadership and governance training to high-achieving young Muslim women. The program is designed to help young women become leaders and influencers within their own communities.


  • work with Muslim community organisations
  • improve a selected aspect of the organisation’s governance, and
  • develop their individual leadership skills.

Thirty two young women completed the 2017 and 2018 Aspire programs, which were delivered by SZCC in partnership with the Islamic Council of Victoria.

SZCC was awarded a grant from the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation to deliver ‘Devolved Aspire’ for two more cohorts of young women in 2019 and 2020.  

The governance resources developed by the participants are freely available to download from the Aspire page on our website's activities & resources page.

Faith-based organisations serve the needs of CALD, refugee and newly arrived communities. In 2018, SZCC received funding from the Victorian Legal Services Board to pioneer a community development model designed to build governance excellence in faith-based community organisations.

The project has:

  • created tailored and engaging resources on law and governance
  • trained trusted leaders from diverse communities to become ‘Community Facilitators’ in law and governance
  • supported these leaders to deliver governance workshops back to the boards of their faith-based organisations.

Read more about the program activities in 2020.

Good legal information about aspects of Australian law exists. However, it is not necessarily culturally accessible to CALD and newly arrived communities.

In 2019, SZCC received funding from the Australian Federal Government to deliver a project that augments existing services and resources about law by training trusted community influencers to provide information about key areas of law back into their communities in Brimbank and Melbourne’s outer western suburbs.

The program pilots a sustainable and scalable model of community education that has achieved the following:

  • created culturally appropriate resources that provide answers to 'Frequently Asked Questions' on key aspects of law and the legal system
  • trained 10 leaders to deliver workshops using the resources.

SZCC hopes to expand the program to other local government areas in the future.

In 2020, SZCC received funding from the Australian Federal Government to partner with Benevolence Australia and work with Victorian Muslim communities to develop Islamically sensitive family violence primary prevention resources for use in pre-martial counselling with Muslim couples.  

Existing faith-based programs for the primary prevention of family violence are often interfaith and focus on providing key information through videos, reports and fact sheets.

This program pilots a faith-specific community-capacity building approach that ties primary prevention strategies to milestone events in the religious lifecycle. This aims to provide a timely learning opportunity that fosters conversations about respectful relationships and family violence in a trusted community setting.

Over three years, the project will:

  • create an interactive primary prevention training package for couples, marriage celebrants and spiritual leaders
  • pilot and evaluate the training package with two Muslim communities via selected Imams and marriage celebrants and refine the resources accordingly
  • publish and promote use of the training package among Australia’s Muslim communities.

At the conclusion of the program Benevolence will assume ownership of the program and resources and support their continued use among young Muslim couples seeking marriage counselling.

Read more about the program

Community governance training

Our community governance training programs help community leaders and organisations understand and adhere to best practice in governance.

We provide:

  • training for community leaders and organisations in governance (including complaint handling, good decision making, risk management and general community accountability)
  • tailored capacity building programs for community leaders on current issues such as family violence
  • faith-based dispute resolution training.

Multi-faith responses to COVID-19: Governing in a crisis

On Thursday, 11 June the Cowen Centre hosted 100 participants for a multifaith webinar examining the effects of COVID-19 on faith-communities in Victoria with:

  • Rabbi Ronnie Figdor OAM, CEO of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation,
  • Rev Ian Smith, Executive Director of the Victorian Council of Churches,
  • Sheikh Muhammad Saleem, Secretary of the Board of Imams,
  • Dr Nadav Prawer, Partner, Mann Lawyers, and
  • Adam Lancaster, Director, Ready1 Group

In a wide-ranging discussion, the panel reflected on:

  • the support faith-based organisations are providing to individuals in crisis due to the pandemic,
  • how communities are managing to worship together while being apart, and
  • how good governance practices can help faith-based organisations meet the needs of their communities in these challenging times.

Read more and watch the full discussion on YouTube.

On Thursday, 11 June the Cowen Centre hosted 100 participants for a multifaith webinar examining the effects of COVID-19 on faith-communities in Victoria.

Past community governance training projects

We delivered Australia’s first Muslim Leaders Education Program (MLEP) from 2016–2017.

MLEP was funded by the Scanlon Foundation and featured during the Australian Government's Community and Philanthropy Partnerships Week in 2016.

In partnership with the Islamic Council of Victoria, we delivered Australia's first training program to imams.

The 12-week program covered aspects of:

  • commercial law
  • family law
  • marriage and divorce.

The program was developed to support Victorian imams in their quasi-judicial role on the Islamic arbitral body, the Mejlis.


We partnered with the Islamic Council of Victoria to deliver a grassroots training program for 20 Muslim women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Participants were trained as peer-to-peer supporters of other women within their communities needing information and assistance with family law, including family violence issues.

The program continued in 2017 and the same group of women were trained to share their skills and knowledge with members of their communities at ‘Home Gatherings’, designed to create safe and informal spaces for open discussion on family law and family violence.

See an example of the Home Gatherings, a high tea aimed at empowering young Muslim women, featured in ABC News.


  • Islamic Council of Victoria
  • Women's Legal Service Victoria
  • Scanlon Foundation.