Colourful string weave

Cultural Conversations

Our new series of events explores the importance of disagreeing well.

Could the worldwide rise in authoritarian-populism reflect a backlash to progressive cultural change? What does this mean for multicultural societies that value diversity, equity and social justice? An expert panel – the first in our new Cultural Conversations series – will discuss the rise of this cultural backlash in public life and the challenges that ensue.

This series of events will explore the idea – and importance of – disagreeing well.

As a society we need to learn how to:

  • have complex, critical discussions
  • problem solve
  • share diverse experiences and knowledge
  • cultivate creative and empathetic leadership across organisational boundaries and the wider community.

This event was held at the University of Sydney on Thursday 19 July.

Disagreement is a common theme in our Cultural Conversations series. It is our collective responsibility to disagree well and with care. In September we will discuss ‘Differing views: valuing disagreement’ and in November we’ll focus on the topic of ‘Let’s talk about race’.


  • Pippa Norris is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She also directs the Electoral Integrity Project, funded by the Australian Research Council. A political scientist and public speaker, her research compares election and public opinion, political communications, and gender politics. Honors include the Karl Deutsch Award, the Johan Skytte award, the Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize, and elections to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A well-known public speaker and prize-winning author, she has published around fifty books and her work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
  • Associate Professor Jennifer Barrett publishes on museums, culture, art, and the public sphere. Her monograph, Museums and the Public Sphere, was published in 2011 (Wiley- Blackwell) and her co-authored monograph Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum (with J. Millner, Ashgate Publishing) was published in 2014. Her current research examines the concept of universalism as it relates to museums, cultural practice and human rights. Jennifer is a Chief Investigator with Avril Alba on the Australian Research Council Linkage project, Australian Holocaust Memory, Human Rights and the Contemporary Museum, that explores the nexus between the Holocaust and human rights through the prism of the Sydney Jewish Museum.  She regularly collaborates with the museum, heritage and gallery sectors and has been Chair of the Board, Museums and Galleries NSW, since 2015. Between 2000 and 2011 Jennifer was Director of Museum Studies, between 2010 and 2015 she was Pro Dean (Academic) in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. She is currently Director of the University’s Culture Strategy.
  • Dr Tim Soutphommasane has been Race Discrimination Commissioner since August 2013. Prior to joining the Australian Human Rights Commission, Tim was a political philosopher and held posts at The University of Sydney and Monash University. His thinking on multiculturalism, patriotism and national identity has been influential in shaping debates in Australia and Britain. Tim is the author of four books: I’m Not Racist But … (2015), The Virtuous Citizen (2012), Don't Go Back To Where You Came From (2012), and Reclaiming Patriotism (2009). He has been an opinion columnist with The Age and The Weekend Australian newspapers, and presented the documentary series Mongrel Nation on ABC Radio National (2013). Tim is an adjunct professor at the School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Western Sydney University and chairs the Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity.

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