Exploring cultural diversity in philanthropy – Webinar

Tue, 22 Aug 2023 11:00am - 12:00pm AEST


Learn how philanthropy can help to advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion. This online discussion will provide an overview of how cultural diversity is both defined and actioned in philanthropy governance, strategy and funding. Presenters discussing perspectives on cultural diversity and philanthropy will include: 

  • Jack Heath, CEO of Philanthropy Australia
  • Dr Meera Varadharajan, Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Impact UNSW,
  • Professor Lindon Coombes, Director of Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research,
  • Arminé Nalbandian, CEO at the Centre for Social Impact and
  • Nalika Peiris, a local government leader

Presenters will explore perceptions and attitudes towards current cultural diversity initiatives and highlight how philanthropy can advance diversity. Drawing on findings in a newly released report – From Colour Blind To Race Conscious: A Roadmap to Action Diversity and Inclusion in Australian Philanthropy. There will be a discussion on lessons and opportunities for change.


  • To share research on diversity and equity in philanthropy 
  • To consider ways that philanthropy can become more inclusive from a cultural diversity lens


This event is for Philanthropy Australia members at all levels and anyone interested in learning more about philanthropy and diversity internationally.


Jack Heath, Chief Executive Director at Philanthropy Australia 

Jack sees philanthropy as a driving force for good in a time of diminished trust in institutions and huge societal challenges. He advocates for a philanthropy that is big-hearted, clear-headed and joyful. After graduating from the University of Melbourne in Honours Arts and Law, he served in government as a diplomat, speechwriter and senior adviser to federal ministers including Prime Minister Paul Keating. Then, following the suicide of his young cousin, Jack led the establishment of the ReachOut you mental health organisation in Australia, Ireland and the USA before serving as CEO at SANE Australia for over 8 years. He has sat on a number of advisory boards and committees and received awards for his contributions in mental health, including a Centenary Medal. Jack lives in Sydney with his publisher wife Catherine Milne and they have 2 adult children, Lucy and James, and a dog Fred. 

Dr Meera Varadharajan, Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Impact, UNSW

Meera, along with Joshua Gilbert, Jumbunna Senior Researcher in Indigenous education at UTS, led the research work on the cultural diversity report. Meera is an experienced qualitative researcher and is passionate about weaving human stories and lived experiences in her work to create meaningful social impact. An educational researcher by background, Meera led the Education Insights Reports in 2021-2022. Her work on education equity seeks to better understand the levers required to build a more equitable and inclusive education system in Australia. Meera has worked across a range of projects with different organisations to help build their capacity, so they have the tools to create change in their sector or organisation. She holds a PhD in education from the University of Technology Sydney.

Professor Lindon Coombes, Director of Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research

Professor Lindon Coombes is a descendant of the Yuallaraay people of north-west NSW and has over 25 years of experience working across a range of sectors in Aboriginal affairs. He has held senior executive positions in the NSW Government and has been CEO of Aboriginal owned and controlled organisations. Lindon has also been a Senior Advisor for successive Ministers holding the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio in NSW. He has extensive experience in Indigenous policy development and engagement. He was most recently a Director in PwC’s Indigenous Consulting and is now Director of Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research.  

Arminé Nalbandian, Chief Executive Officer at the Centre for Social Impact

Arminé is a public policy leader who has spent her career advising governments and for-purpose organisations on social policy and economic development strategies. Most recently, she was Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Policy to the New South Wales Premier and has worked with organisations such as the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council. Arminé is a US Fulbright Scholar and graduated summa cum laude as a Presidential Scholar from Northeastern University in Boston. She also holds a Master of Science in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and a Master of Commerce from the University of Sydney as a Business Leaders Scholar.

Nalika Peiris, Local Government Sector Leader

Nalika brings a breadth and depth of experience in public policy and community development with a focus on Human Rights, diversity, and inclusion. She has been responsible for overseeing and evaluating community grant programs in inner city local governments, been on assessment panels and on Boards of community organisations. Much of her work recently has been to explore participatory and evidence based approached community development and implementation of public policy. She seeks to identify and address barriers to community participation by examining cultural organisational barriers that community face. Nalika is a Graduate of the Australian Institute Company Directors. 

The Cultural Diversity in Philanthropy Research Initiative is a collaboration of the Centre for Social Impact, the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research (University of Technology Sydney), Macquarie Group Foundation, Perpetual, and Philanthropy Australia, The Centre for Social Impact’s work on this project, in partnership with the Jumbunna Institute, is proudly supported by Macquarie Group Foundation. Philanthropy Australia’s work on this project is proudly supported by Perpetual.

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