At the request of the Islamic community, Oppeus International Senior Adviser, Victor Perton, delivered the keynote address at the 2015 La Trobe University Ramadan Iftar Dinner.
Oppeus International congratulates La Trobe University and the Australian Intercultural Society for their sustained commitment to holding annual Iftar dinners dedicated to increased understanding of Islamic ceremonial traditions and to build partnerships and friendships across the La Trobe, Melbourne and Victorian community.
In keeping with the theme of values, spirituality, multiculturalism and leadership, Victor’s speech was very well received.
On leadership, Victor said:
“As Commissioner to the Americas, my role was to sell the case for increased investment in Victoria by global corporations and to promote Victorian exports. This was a wonderful experience as Americans north and south share a very positive image of Australia, Australians and Melbourne!
“Our harmonious, multicultural and cosmopolitan society and our image as positive people have made a great impression. Our prosperity and good life is reflected in OECD and United Nations Development Program top rankings for “better living” and “human development”.
“Our city of Melbourne is ranked number 1 for liveability in several global indexes of urban life and in guides to expatriate living. When you mention you come from Melbourne, so many people from the Americas to Africa have a visit here as their aspiration. Now that I am back, every week I am catching up with friends, acquaintances and friends of friends visiting here and expressing their delight in the pleasures of this city.
“However, on my return to Melbourne, I have been surprised to find local people telling me of their lack of confidence in Australian leadership – political, corporate, institutional and even community.
“My instinct was to argue against the proposition that our leadership is poor. After all, how do you rise to have such a superb life-style, culture, standard of living and urban design without good leadership? There are many countries rich in resources which remain 2nd and 3rd world with dissidents who aspire to have our good institutional frameworks and relatively egalitarian society.
“I have seen Australian leadership bring the G20 back on track to the point where it is seen as the preeminent body for setting global economic policy. I have seen the Australian Diaspora leading global corporations, institutions and communities. Others refer to the Australian style as positive understated competence.
“However, the more I have tested the proposition in conversation, the more I find people here telling me that our leaders are caught up in short-term thinking and lacking in collaborative instincts.
“Are there unrealistic expectations of our leaders or is there a genuine problem? Is it the way Australians communicate and talk? Is it the “tall poppy” syndrome running rampant?
“These few minutes of remarks will not answer these questions but, when we think of the solutions, whether it is to improve our leadership or improve the confidence in our leadership, each of us holds a key.
“The Qur’an and Islamic teaching tells us we each have a responsibility to stewardship and responsibility in our own realms.
“In his Iftar speech this year, President Obama said to the Muslim community, “challenges around the world and here at home demand the very qualities you summon every day during Ramadan: sacrifice, discipline, patience. A resilience that says we don’t simply endure, but we overcome.”
“My proposition is that each of us in this room has the responsibility to improve our own leadership attributes and to improve the confidence in leadership. In a time when information and communications technology and education places ever more power in the hands of the individual and in our families, we each have the means to be ever more productive, more collaborative and contribute more to our society. Economic prescriptions of structural reform and the like pale into insignificance compared with the power of the individual to positively influence our environment.
“Each of us can communicate better. The prophets we follow understood their audiences and spoke to them clearly and lovingly. And like today, they conversed during meals and the breaking of fast to hear about challenges, joys and success.
“By gathering together to break the fast with prayer and companionship, we are demonstrating our commitment to a spiritual and collaborative leadership.
“This La Trobe University prides itself on producing graduates with excellent communication skills and I have met those graduates succeeding and leading in almost every corner of the earth…
“As we go forth from this event, may God bless each and every one of us and guide us in our service to our families and community.”