Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian was toasted by dignitaries of multicultural communities, Commonwealth and State government officials, community leaders and members of the media at a gala dinner held on Tuesday, December 10, at a waterfront venue in Sydney.
Philippine Consul-General Anne Jalando-on Louis headed the group of Filipino community leaders and media members who attended the event.
The celebration dinner paid tribute to Dr Kerkyasharian’s 24 years of having served seven New South Wales State Premiers in his post as Chair of NSW Communities Relations Commission (formerly Ethnic Affairs Commission) which championed and put in place initiatives of multiculturalism.
His achievements in previously heading for ten years and making SBS Radio an effective instrument of communicating, informing and entertaining multicultural communities were also highlighted. He was also part of the team which established SBS Television.
Dr Kerkyasharian as Chair of the Ethnic Affairs Commission was instrumental in establishing systems for the accreditation, training and codes of practice of language specialists [interpreters and translators] putting them on a professional level.
He was also attributed to have developed the NSW Charter of Principles for a Culturally Diverse Society during the time of Premier John Fahey. This significant initiative promulgated the equality of all people in NSW and highlighted the importance of diversity in the society.
Dr Kerkyasharian was also instrumental in instituting the Annual National Multicultural Marketing Awards which count among its awardees two Filipino-related organisations: Philippine Australian Sports & Culture Inc. in 1991 for its Fiesta Kultura annual event, and in 2000, emanila.com which was the recipient of the Inaugural Technology Award 2000.
For nearly a quarter of a century, he promoted community harmony which was challenged by events elsewhere in the world that impacted on local groups. These included the first Gulf War, 9/11 incident in New York, war in Afghanistan, the Bali bombings, and the invasion of Iraq.
The programme was kept flowing by Vince Sorrenti as Master of Ceremonies. Congratulatory speeches were made by Federal Parliamentary Speaker Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells representing Prime Minister Tony Abbott, former NSW Minister for Multicultural & Ethnic Affairs Michael Photios, NSW Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello, Member of Legislative Council Amanda Fazio representing NSW Leader of Opposition John Robertson, and Cardinal George Pell.
The Armenian Dance Company and classical performers Zoe Drummond (soprano), Damian Arnold (tenor)and Glen Amet (accompanist) provided the entertainment numbers.
Together with Consul General Jalando-on Louis were Atty Lolit Farmer OAM [Worldwide Filipino Alliance, Global Filipinos Australia], Manny Castillo OAM [Philippine Australian Sports Club], Romy Cayabyab [Publisher & Editor of The Filipino Australian / emanila.com], Atty Jessie Icao [Legal Counsel & Columnist – Ang Kalatas], Col Chris Pilao [Australian Philippine Services League], Atty Kate Andres and Millie Banan [Philippine Community Council – NSW], Espie Pogson [Ilocano Association of Australia], and Violi Calvert [Freelance writer and Sandigan Broadcaster].
Brief background on Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian
Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian was born in Cyprus in 1943 and is of Armenian background. At the age of 17, he moved to London where he studied electronics. He migrated to Australia in 1967.
He has spent most of his career working in positions which worked on programs and initiatives which have benefited Australian migrant communities.
In 1992 he was recognised for his service when he became a Member of the Order of Australia, and in 2012 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia.
In 2000, the Olympic Order was conferred upon him by the International Olympic Committee for his contribution to the success of the Sydney Olympic Games. Doctor of Letters degrees were conferred on the multiculturalism advocate in June 2007 by the University of Sydney and in September 2013 by the University of Western Sydney.
Dr Kerkyasharian will continue as part-time President of the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW on his retirement as chair of the NSW Community Relations Commission.