Organisational Structure

Religions for Peace Australia has a Committee of Management, elected each year at the Annual General Meeting, usually conducted in April or May each year. For historical reasons, it is centred in Melbourne but there are representatives from associate branches in other capital cities. Annual General Meetings have been held in Canberra for the last three years and it is planned to have these meetings in other states. Currently affiliations and members come from Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney, Hobart and Brisbane. There are many other interfaith bodies as well as numerous local government interfaith networks across Australia.

Committee of Management:

President: Emeritus Professor Desmond Cahill, B.A., S.T.L., M.Ed., Ph.D., M.Ps.S.A., F.A.C.E.L.

Biodata: Educated in Australia and Italy, Desmond Cahill, Professor of Intercultural Studies at RMIT University, is one of Australia’s leading social researchers. In 2006, he was made an honorary fellow of the Australian Council of Educational Leaders for his work in immigrant, cross-cultural, interfaith and international education. He currently chairs the Religions for Peace (Australia), and represents Australia on the Asian Conference of Religion and Peace (ACRP). He led Melbourne’s successful bid to stage the forthcoming Parliament of the World’s Religions, the world’s largest interfaith gathering, and is now its Melbourne Program Director. A member of the Australian Partnership of Religious Organisations (APRO) and of the Victoria Police Multifaith Advisory Council, he is a Club Melbourne Ambassador as part of the “Think Melbourne, Think Victoria” strategy of the Victorian Government.

Emeritus Professor Desmond Cahill, is Professor of Intercultural Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne. He currently serves as President of Religions for Peace Australia and had worked for more than two decades in cementing interreligious relations in Australia and across Asia. Educated in Melbourne and Rome, he worked pastorally for the Catholic Church during the 1970s before embarking on an academic career in ethnic and religious diversity and cross-cultural communication. Prof. Cahill was elected Moderator of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace on October 22, 2021.

Chair: Ms Philippa Rowland B.Sc.Ag (Adelaide Uni), Grad. Dip. Natural Resource Management (ANU), Australia Day Achievement Award 2002 for Natural Resource Management; Disaster and Recovery Ministry Chaplain (SA).

Biodata: Philippa Rowland trained as an agricultural scientist, and worked for over a decade in the Australian Federal Government on sustainable farming and national environmental management plans for biodiversity, pesticides, cadmium and ozone-depleting methyl bromide. Since 2005, she has promoted community solutions to climate change, primarily the transition to energy efficiency and renewable energy. She encourages all people of faith to live in harmony with nature; to adopt sustainable lifestyles in food, transport and energy (Living the Change), and to be bold in calling our governments to account. She is active in the Oceania Ecosystem Services Network and the GreenFaith International Network. Philippa was a community delegate at global climate talks CoP15 in Copenhagen, CoP21 in Paris, helped coordinate an Australian response to a global Interfaith Statement to UN Sec. Gen. in New York in April 2016 and was invited to the Sommet de Conscience in Fez, before CoP22 in Morocco in 2017. Her key interests are Interfaith Harmony and Nature-Based Solutions.

Deputy Chair: Dean Sahu Khan OAM

Biodata: “I am a lawyer by profession and have been in practice since 1974. As a prosecutor with the Department of Public Prosecution’s Office in the ACT since 1991.

I have a great passion in interfaith dialogue and have been involved since 1992. The current Canberra Interfaith Forum was formally registered about 5 years ago and I am and have been the president since its inception. In 2012 I received an award for excelling in interfaith dialogue. The presentation was made by Mr Phillip Ruddock.

In 2014 I completed my Masters Degree in Islamic Studies with Honours from Charles Sturt University. I received the Dean’s award.”

In the King’s Birthday Honours (June 2023) Deah Sahu Khan was awarded OAM for service to the community, and to interfaith relations.

Secretary: Dr. Susan Ennis Dip. Ed, B TESOL, MEd, Ph D, Cert IV in Workplace Training and Assessment

Biodata: Sue has a professional background in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) as well as coordinating language programs for newly arrived adult refugees/immigrants in Melbourne. Sue has also taught English in Turkey, and the Peoples Republic of China, and worked in Israel. She was born into a Methodist then Uniting Church family. In late adolescence, she joined a social justice house church in a multifaith area. After working in Cambodia, she became a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). In the mid-2010s she completed a Ph.D. and book on “ Religion, Spirituality and the Refugee Experience ”. An outgrowth of her research her been her nearly 12-year commitment to Religions for Peace Australia (RfPA), more recently serving as Secretary for Religions for Peace Australia. She now represents Australia on the Asian Conference on Religions for Peace Women’s Committee, and is currently serving as Deputy Secretary-General of the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace.

Treasurer: Ms. Ann Aisatullin B.A., Dip Ed., Grad Dip T.E.C.E, Grad Dip Psychology. Disaster and Recovery Ministry Chaplain (SA). Australia Country Contact for United Religions Initiative

Biodata: Ann has been a kindergarten teacher for many years in metropolitan Adelaide. She has also taught in remote kindergartens in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the far north of SA and in a range of Jewish kindergartens in Melbourne including Ultra Orthodox kindergartens.

Ann has specialised in promoting inclusive education strategies including a mini thesis researching the benefits of an inclusive visiting programme between children from a Special School with moderate to severe intellectual disability and children in a mainstream government kindergarten. She has also researched inclusive education practices for culturally and spiritually diverse communities including the Aboriginal Kaurna community of the Adelaide Plains. She has participated in a Seminar at the University of Helsinki with Professor Arto Kallioniemi and Dr Heidi Rautionmaa after participating in a panel in Toronto at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2018.

Ann is a member of the Multifaith Association of SA where she was President for a short period in 2012/13. She is on the steering committee for Interfaith Matters in SA and is an early childhood consultant for Connect4children, a playgroup made up of families from many different faiths and cultural traditions.
Ann is a member of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change and has been involved in the Living the Change initiative and has assisted in presenting the Divestment course Align Your Finances with Your Faith.

Ann Aisatullin is a member of the Jewish community.

Committee Members:

Committee Member: Mr. Caesar D’Mello

Biodata: Caesar D’Mello is the executive director of the Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism (ECOT), which in collaboration with church, faith and other groups responds to the negative impacts of tourism that contributes to the poverty of the countries of the South. He was previously director of programs at the Columban Mission Centre in Melbourne and, prior to that, national director of Christian World Service at the national Council of Churches in Australia. He has had long experience in engaging with faiths for peace and justice, reconciliation and healing.

Committee Member: Bishop Philip Huggins

Biodata: Bishop Philip Huggins, former President of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA), was appointed Director of the Centre for Ecumenical Studies, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture (Charles Sturt University) in 2019.

Philip Huggins is a bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia. He was the ninth Bishop of Grafton. He was educated at Monash University and ordained in 1977. He began his ordained ministry in the Diocese of Bendigo. Bishop Huggins recently resigned from his position as an assistant bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. He brings a wealth of experience including social responsibilities, refugee taskforce, Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Jewish Christian Muslim Association and the Centre for Dialogue La Trobe University. Bishop Huggins is a member of the United Nations Interfaith Liaison Committee and is currently Director, Centre for Ecumenical Studies, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Canberra

Committee Member: Bonnie Suehiro

Biodata: Sukyo Mahikari Australia, Canberra Interfaith Forum. As our youth representative, Bonnie attended the ACRP 9th General Assembly and Youth Pre-Assembly in October 2021. The theme was ‘Arigato in Action’, covering topics such as their recent involvement in supporting the Great East Japan Disaster relief, climate change efforts, raising awareness on the refuge crises, religious freedom and human rights amongst others.

Bonnie Suehiro has also been able to connect with the Youth & Networking Coordinator from the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations based in Sydney (Youth POWR), and the National YCW (Young Christian Workers) Community Organiser. Bonnie has facilitated events in ACT Youth Week to celebrate the positive contributions young people make to the community.

Webmaster: Rev. Chris Parnell, B. Theol, Dip. Min., Dip. Human Values, Chaplain, Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry

Biodata: Rev. Chris Parnell has been in involved in religious and spiritual publishing for over 40 years, and has worked as an editor and publisher of spiritual books in Australia and India. He has served in various chaplaincies with a focus on defence and emergency services chaplaincy. Chris has been webmaster for several multifaith and humanitarian organisations in Australia. He has a practical interest in interfaith and the media, including a survey of interfaith sites across South-East Asia. He is an ordained Interfaith Minister and lives in Shepparton, Victoria. He has served as Secretary of the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District and is currently studying Spiritual Direction at ACU.

Interstate Representatives

NSW Convenor: Robert Grant

Tasmania Convenor: Ms Therese Sussmilch, BA (Hons), Dip Ed., Grad Dip Rehabilitation Counselling, Grad Dip Librarianship, RSA/Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language, NAATI Level 2 in Auslan Interpreting, Grad Cert in Education (Human Resources Development), Cert IV in Workplace Training and Assessment (Tas TAFE)

Biodata: Therese Sussmilch has been involved in Religions for Peace Australia since 2001 as the Convenor for Religions for Peace Tasmania
Branch. Since 2019 she has convened the Faith Communities Network of Tasmania, a network of faith leaders and representatives. Over her working life in three professions, Ms Sussmilch has learned at first hand the difficulties and discrimination faced by minority groups in our communities and enjoys working in areas to foster harmony through deeper understanding of different traditions and cultures. Ms. Sussmilch is a Chaplain with the Tasmanian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry.

Adelaide convenor: Ms Philippa Rowland

Biodata: (See above)

ACT Convenor: Dean Sahu Khan OAM

Biodata: (See above)

Northern Territory convenor: Dr. Edwin Lourdes Joseph, JP

Biodata: Dr Edwin Joseph is President – Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory (MCNT) and Hon. Secretary of the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia (FECCA) and formerly Vice-President of FECCA. Edwin serves as a volunteer with the Red Cross, Melaleucca Refugee Centre and DASSAN (Darwin Asylum Seeker and Advocacy Network). He serves on the NT division boards of United Nations Association of Australia, DASSAN, Institution of Public Administration Australia, Australian Computer Society and the Australia Day Council.

Dr Edwin Joseph is currently setting up the Northern Territory Branch of Religions for Peace Australia. This is planned to launch in October of 2022.

Western Australia convenor: Dr. Samina Yasmeen AM, University of Western Australia

Biodata: Dr. Samina Yasmeen AM is an Australian–Pakistani author and intellectual who is known for her work in political and strategic development in South Asia and the role of Islam in world politics. Professor. Samina Yasmeen is a teacher and researcher in University of Western Australia’s School of Social Sciences, and director and founder of the University’s Centre for Muslim States and Societies. She focuses on understanding perceptions of and by Muslims and Islam around the world, and seeks to make an impact on Australian and global politics. Dr. Yasmeen is the Inaugural Convenor for Western Australia.

Accredited Observers

ACT Observer: Kanti Jinna, OAM

Biodata: Kanti Jinna currently serves as Vice-President of the Hindu Council of Australia. He is the co-founder and former President of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre, Australian Capital Territory. He is President of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Australian Capital Territory, and has been active in this organisation for many years. He has served as a member of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum since 2005, and is currently Advisor Ageing, since 2010. Since 2010, Kanti Jinna has been Vice President of the Indian Senior Citizen’s Association, Australian Capital Territory. He is Board Member, Australian Capital Territories Public Cemeteries Authority Board, since 2015. He also serves as Member, Partnering with Consumers and Carers Advisory Group, Calvary Hospital, since 2015. Mr Jinna is Patron, Fiji Australia Association of Canberra, since 2008. He has been Member, ACT Chief Minister’s Council of the Ageing, 2005-2011

Queensland (Bahá’í Community) Observer: Ron Mitchell

Biodata: Ron Mitchell is a member of the Bahá’í Community of Brisbane and has been representing both Darwin and Queensland in his earlier iterations with the national executive of Religions for Peace Australia. Ron Mitchell is the former Programs Manager of the Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory, and was also host of ABC Mornings fortnightly segment, Country of Origin. Ron is a former member of the National Board, United Nations Association of Australia.

Queensland Observer: Dr. Adis Duderija PhD

Biodata: Dr. Adis Duderija is a Senior Lecturer in the Study of Islam and Society at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. He is one of the internationally most recognised scholars in the field of contemporary Islamic Studies especially in relation to his work on gender and Islam, interfaith dialogue theory , the theory of progressive Islam and the Islamic interpretive tradition more generally . He has authored close to 100 journal articles , book chapters and encyclopedia entries. Dr. Duderija is also the author and editor of over half a dozen books including Duderija, A., Alak, A., & Hissong, K. (2020). Islam and Gender Major Issues and Debates . Routledge; Duderija, A. & Rane, H. (2019), Islam and Muslims in the West: Major Issues and Debates. New York: Palgrave Macmillan; Duderija .A ( 2017). The Imperatives of Progressive Islam (2017); Duderija, A. (2015). The Sunna and its Status in Islamic Law: The Search for a Sound Hadith. United States: Palgrave Macmillan , Duderija, A. (2014). Maqasid al-Shari’a and Contemporary Reformist Muslim Thought: An Examination. United States: Palgrave Macmillan US and others. He serves on the editorial board of several academic journals and his scholarship has been translated into Arabic, Indonesian, Urdu and Hindi.

Google Scholar Profile:

List of Publications:

What I Believe in: Embracing Rationalism, Feminism, Sufism, Critical Thought, Cosmopolitanism and Process-Relational Theology

Victorian Observer: Rev. Fr. William Burt, SVD

Biodata: Fr. William (Bill) Burt SVD (Society of the Divine Word) was born of New Caledonian and Australian parentage. He trained to be a Catholic priest in a theological college in Flores, Indonesia. After ordination, Fr. Burt worked in an Indonesian parish for several years before he returned to Australia. He has also served in churches in Tonga, New Zealand and held a variety of roles in the Society of the Divine Word in Australia. Similar roles in Indonesia followed. He has been a friend of Religions for Peace Australia for many years, and was one of the founders of Religions for Peace NSW Branch! Fr. Burt tells that Inter-faith dialogue called him to Religions for Peace in NSW.

For six years Fr. Burt was the Asia-Pacific Zonal Coordinator for the Society of the Divine Word. This involved facilitating meetings of colleagues throughout this part of the world, and was fortunate to be able to visit most Asian countries, and found himself involved in promoting inter-religious dialogue among his colleagues.

Fr. Bill Burt declares he has retired; however, his interest in the mission of Religions for Peace is very strong. He plans to be an active participant in Religions for Peace.