10th anniversary of the NSW chapter of Religions for Peace

The NSW Branch of Religions for Peace Australia celebrates 10 years – a decade of holding its events and proceedings in the State Parliament. Talks are given by Hon. Walt Secord, Shadow Minister, and Peter Wertheim, co-Chief Executive Officer, Executive Council of Australian Jewry

Religions for Peace 2022
Walt Secord – Shadow Minister
20 June 2022 – NSW Parliament – President’s Dining Room

I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners on the land which we gather and pay respect to their elders past, present and emerging. I also note that this Saturday June 18 coincided with the 25th anniversary of the NSW Government’s historic apology by then-Premier Bob Carr and Opposition leader Peter Collins to the Stolen Generations – this was the first in Australia.

As the NSW Labor Government did all the way back in 1997 when we apologised to the Stolen Generations, it is now incumbent upon us once again not just to reckon with the past But also to look forward and to be bold.

That can start with the Perrottet Government supporting the newly elected Federal Albanese Labor Government as it works to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

And on that note, I hope to one day serve in a State Government which undertakes a treaty or treaties with NSW First Nations peoples and implements measures and policies that truly close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Today, we are marking the 10th anniversary of the NSW chapter of Religions for Peace – a decade of holding its events and proceedings in the State Parliament.

I have been hosting this organisation at State Parliament since February 20, 2012. And today’s will be last until after the forthcoming State election in March 2023. It is going to be a busy eight months.

On that note, I felt that this was also a fitting occasion to honour and formally acknowledge the work of Religions For Peace NSW Convenor, Josie Lacey OAM. I have known and loved her since 1988. She adopted me and became my “Aussie mum” way back when I was a journalist at the Australian Jewish News from 1988 to 1991. Since then, we have had countless Shabbat dinners and Pesach seders together.

Born in Romania, Josie Grunseit came here as a refugee in 1939 with her parents and brother Rolf – fleeing Nazi Europe.

After a stint as a school teacher, Josie Lacey was an executive member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, president of Wizo, a life member of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW, including its anti-racism taskforce, as well as being active in a number of inter-faith organisations including the World Conference on Religion and Peace.

In 1992, Josie was awarded an OAM for Services to community relations and the Jewish Community.

It is also important to acknowledge her husband Ian Lacey AM. Impressively, they have been married for 61 years.

Their work and their relentless fight against injustice have always taken place in the context of their inspiring loving partnership, with each complementing the other’s skill set and achieving great things as a team – notably including the historic anti-racial vilification laws in NSW.

Together they have three daughters, Ruth, Dr Judith and Rebecca, who is here today with grand-daughter Sarah. Two lawyers and a doctor in the family – the Jewish mother’s trifecta!

In November 2018, Josie published her memoir – An Inevitable Path – and I was proud to be there at the Sydney Jewish Museum for its formal launch. As the title of the book suggests, Josie Lacey was on An Inevitable Path. She was always on a path; a path to fight intolerance and injustice. Whether it has been fighting antisemitism in rural NSW, building bridges with other faiths, assisting other migrants, or fighting for women’s rights in the Jewish community, Josie Lacey was there.

In the current COVID world, this is the first meeting of the NSW chapter of Religions for Peace allowed at State Parliament and we are hosting it in the President’s dining room. So welcome back to the Parliament.

Firstly, I wish to thank NSW Legislative Council President Matthew Mason-Cox for allowing us use of this space as it is usually reserved for visiting heads of State and visiting Royals.

The New South Wales chapter of Religions for Peace, chaired by interfaith and anti-racism activist Mrs Josie Lacey, comprises spiritual leaders and adherents of the Buddhist, Bahai, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu faiths as well as the various Christian denominations including the Uniting Church in Australia, Catholic and Egyptian Coptic. It has since added other faiths including Indigenous beliefs and Zoroastrianism.

The New South Wales chapter is one of several Australian divisions of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, an interfaith body of representatives from more than 70 different countries.

I support the noble aims and work of the New South Wales chapter – and it has been a delight to host the Religions for Peace in various forms from zooms to events in my office to the historic Parkes Room. The group is a model on how we should all conduct ourselves – especially for parliamentarians. It carries out all of its activities with respect and dignity for others. It is also a model for NSW as we strive for a harmonious and tolerant society in our State.

Finally I wish to end on a formal message from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and its co-Chief Executive Officer, Mr Peter Wertheim AM.

Mr Wertheim sends his apologies and asked that I read the following message. And it reads: Message to Josie.

From: Peter Wertheim
Sent: Saturday, 18 June 2022 6:07 PM
Subject: Message to Josie
Importance: High

Heartiest congratulations from all of us at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry on completing ten wonderful years as Convenor of Religions for Peace in NSW.

Under your dedicated leadership, the group has brought together distinguished representatives of eight different faith communities to share with one another the spiritual treasures of their respective religious traditions, and to contribute the knowledge and experience that has grown from those traditions to put forward solutions to contemporary problems that leave no one behind.

The group’s inclusion of First Nations people has served to broaden and deepen our understanding of First Nations’ spirituality and connection to country. This has helped demonstrate that religions are more powerful, inspiring, and impactful when they work together in mutual respect.

All of this work has been enhanced immeasurably by the many decades of experience which you and Ian have had at the cutting edge of interfaith and inter-communal co-operation, and by the many close friendships you have both formed with a wide range of political, civil society and communal leaders.

We know that you have done this work as a labour of love, but we are indebted to you all the same.

By strengthening the ties that bind us together as spiritual beings, you have enhanced the cohesiveness of our diverse society for the benefit of all.

So thank you Josie, and thank you Ian, for your magnificent contributions to our beloved Australia.

(sgd) Peter Wertheim, co-Chief Executive Officer, Executive Council of Australian Jewry


10th anniversary of the NSW chapter of Religions for Peace
10th anniversary of the NSW chapter of Religions for Peace


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