Dear members and friends

I write this report in acknowledgement of another busy year for the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW. 

The majority of the Board of Management that had presided over our organisation throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic was re-elected at the 2022 AGM and we took on the task of well overdue reforms to our organisation. Most important of these was the commencement of the journey for the Ethnic Communities’ Council to become a Company Limited by Guarantee. The 2023 Annual General Meeting and Special General Meeting is the culmination of this journey.

Of course, the year 2023 has not been without its challenges. 

The Council mourns the passing of Mr Ian Lacey AM, one of the early contributors and a Life Member of the Council, Mr Tony Pun OAM, former Chair of the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW as well as Dr Harry Harinath OAM, the former Chair of Multicultural NSW Advisory board. I also acknowledge that my family, the family of our Deputy Chair, Ms Fiona Mouhtaris and former Board  member Ms Maria Georgiou have all been blessed with more children of our own.  We are a big family in the Ethnic Communities’ Council and on this basis, I acknowledge and mourn those who have passed and celebrate the joys that we have been given this year.

We are of course not immune to international events at the ECCNSW. 2023 has been one of the most eventful years in recent record.  The war in Ukraine has continued unabated, and such international events have brought home the reason for a multicultural organisation that is representative and non-government. 

The earthquake in Syria and Turkey earlier this year not only devastated communities but brought grief and sadness to many families and associated organisations in Australia. The Council remained active at the time and reached out both personally through its own members to broader communities affected. 

We have continued our advocacy both publicly and privately with respect to the war in Ukraine and as this war enters its third year, we will continue to advocate for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The war in Gaza has brought out the significance of international events to Australia and how such global events affect our own cherished multicultural framework. The Ethnic Communities Council of NSW has been instrumental not only in advocating for peace and dignity for communities, but also in attacking any examples of anti-multiculturalism in Australia.  We continue to condemn the use of Australia’s open, pluralistic and multicultural society to voice anti-Semitic and Islamophobic platforms and will always fight for the respectful cohabitation of the communities that live amongst us. 

I am often asked to collaborate and comment on the work of our organisation. This year, I engaged in  media interviews and public comments , regarding our flagship national programs: “Speak My Language – Living Well with a Disability” and the “Vote Talk “ Program whereby the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW  delivered for both the Federal Electoral Commission, and the NSW  Electoral Office, and was instrumental in educating the community on the voting process prior to last year’s Federal Election and this year’s State Election.   

As a peak body, we have continued our community advocacy in light of changing times and policy. As a representative voice, I have made formal parliamentary representations and was interviewed on risk questions surrounding rental scams, affordable housing , international student exploitation, and the impacts of the rising cost of living on vulnerable communities. 

We prepared submissions for the Australian Multicultural Review Framework, as well as making submissions in the Energy space while also assisting members in doing so.

I also had an opportunity to meet with the newly appointed NSW Women’s Safety Commissioner, Dr Hannah Tonkin to discuss the growing issue of the rise in domestic and family violence, and sexual assault.    

This year also saw us become involved in the national referendum on the Voice to Parliament. I am proud of our Board and wider membership for their maturity and for the respectful and understanding manner with which they conducted themselves when engaging in the debate. Whilst there was disappointment with the result, the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW emerged, unlike other organisations, as a genuine and respectful leader and change agent. We allowed an open and honest debate inside our Board of Management, and within its members during the Voice Referendum and the deliberations that occurred around them. 

We will always stand by our First Nation’s brothers and sisters in their striving for constitutional recognition and for equality. The ECCNSW is present as the peak body representing multicultural communities, to assist in any way that it can.

I acknowledge our Board members and the dedicated work of the Deputy Chair, Ms Fiona Mouhtaris, Secretary, Mr Glen Falkenstein, Youth Chair Mr Joshua Moses and Treasurer, Mr Emanuel Valageorgiou.  These individuals have worked tirelessly in a voltaic compacity for the ECCNSW and have navigated our organisation since 2019.  In collaboration with our Board, I am proud to say we have never missed a Board of Management meeting even in the darkest depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I also acknowledge our Member’s Forum, our dedicated staff, volunteers and stakeholders and the invaluable partnerships that have formed throughout the year.  

Many thanks should go to the CEO, Ms Mary Karras who has led the team, and upheld the operational management and ensured the  organisation went  from strength to strength. 

This year marks the 10th year since my original election as Chair of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW.  Though I have not served continuously as Chair through this entire time, I recognise that I have been involved in significant steps in the organisation. As my  time starts to come to an end, I look forward to welcoming a new generation of leadership to assist in implementing the Strategic Plan in 2024 . This will also include the coordination of the 50th Anniversary Celebrations in 2025, in recognition of the 50 years of community service of the ECCNSW.

Recent times have proven to us all that international events and issues that are both local and on a national level are causing challenges and struggles amongst many in our communities. Added to this, the economic difficulties with the cost-of-living crisis as well as the localisation of international issues will ensure busy year ahead. There has never been a more important time for an organisation that is passionate, open, and advocates strongly for multiculturalism as the Ethnic Communities’ Council NSW.

Finally, I wish to confirm significant resolutions that were unanimously carried  at our recent Annual General Meeting / Special General Meeting held on Sunday 10th December 2023. .  The motion to transfer the organisation’s registration as the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW from an Incorporated Association to a Company Limited by Guarantee was carried , and the proposed new Constitution be the Constitution for the company once the registration with ASIC is in effect.

The historic nature of this structural shift will bring the  organisation  up to date with best practice , and open new opportunities for the ECCNSW to  grow and thrive in the years ahead.

I wish everyone a safe and restful holiday, and for those who celebrate the festive season, a Merry Christmas… a Happy Hanukkah,…..and an  amazing New Year.

Yours in multiculturalism,  

Peter Doukas OAM