‘Darren leaves an indelible mark and a strong legacy’

July 13, 2023, 6:35 am 

Darren Bark (centre) at a press conference with former premier Dominic Perrottet (left).

NSW Premier Chris Minns

Darren was an amazing leader. He was a real pleasure to work with in opposition and in government, and I’ve got no doubt he’ll go on to bigger and better things.

I found him always professional and friendly. He would give us official advice when that was required, but also was a trusted source of informal advice for myself and for many of my colleagues.

It’s a real privilege to have got to know him.

Minister for Multiculturalism Steve Kamper

THROUGHOUT his tenure as JBD CEO, Darren worked tirelessly in the service of his community.

His professionalism and integrity earnt him the respect of both sides of politics, and his willingness to work collaboratively through issues has always been his defining trait.

It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Darren.

Opposition Leader Mark Speakman

Darren was a very effective advocate for the Jewish community and worked very well and inclusively across all faith groups.

He gave the Jewish community extra clout by bringing other faith groups along, for example with the banning of Nazi symbols. He was a pleasure to work with.

Former Premier Dominic Perrottet

Darren has made a significant contribution and is someone who through his leadership has brought people together and worked for unity and progress. His work in the multifaith working group has been instrumental in championing religious freedom and addressing areas of religious discrimination. Darren leaves an indelible mark and a strong legacy.

Darren Bark (left) with NSW Opposition Leader Mark Speakman. Photo: Giselle Haber

Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib

I’ve greatly valued his leadership, particularly when it came to interfaith matters. Most especially when times were a bit more difficult, his leadership shone through.

I thank him for everything he has done and the work we’ve been able to do together in trying to build a better, more cohesive society.

Shadow Attorney-General Alister Henskens

Darren has been an outstanding CEO. He has worked with both sides of politics to ensure that the Jewish community is heard and understood by government.

Darren had started the important work of modernising the JBD which I am certain will continue under the leadership of David Ossip.

Former NSW Labor frontbencher Walt Secord

It is due to Mr Bark’s inspired and groundbreaking work with the Hindu community that we have a Nazi symbol ban in NSW and possibly at the national level.

Darren Bark was a bridge builder and brought communities together.

Shadow Minister for Planning Scott Farlow

During Darren’s tenure the board navigated the COVID pandemic, continued to build relationships with a broad cross-section of multicultural communities and delivered significant legislation in the interests of the community and the people of NSW. Darren will leave a lasting legacy.

Darren Bark (right) with the Hindu Council of Australia’s Surinder Jain. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure

Darren Bark was a strong advocate … his work to advocate for and support the NSW Jewish community is also what led to his appointment as an inaugural member of the NSW Religious Communities Advisory Council.

I thank Mr Bark for his contributions.

Opposition Whip in the Legislative Council Chris Rath

Darren has been an incredibly effective advocate for Israel and the Jewish community. He is lauded in NSW Parliament for his professionalism, dynamism and commitment to the cause.

Shadow Minister for Environment Kellie Sloane

I’d like to congratulate Darren Bark on his significant contribution to our community and beyond.

Darren was instrumental in advocating for important reforms for the Jewish community, as well as securing funding for education and security.

Former NSW Speaker Jonathan O’Dea

Darren Bark has been a wonderful advocate and ambassador for his Jewish constituency and a strong bridge-builder with the broader community.

Australian National Imams Council president Imam Shadi Alsuleiman

Darren Bark has been instrumental in working with other faith communities. He has always presented himself with professionalism, integrity and dealing with others with respect.

He managed to establish an understanding amongst them to work on the common good and interest that they all share and seek.

Hindu Council of Australia national vice-president Surinder Jain

Darren has been a very close friend and supporter of Hindus in Australia. He has helped our community to have a say in the media, departments and politics. The Hindu community is grateful to him for his support. In return, Hindus stand by Australian Jews in full solidarity.

Darren Bark with Premier Chris Minns and the NSW cabinet. Photo: Supplied

Better Balanced Futures CEO Murray Norman

Darren’s work has been ground breaking, not only in addressing antisemitism but religious vilification for all faiths, as well as safety and security for places of worship.

Darren put NSW years or even decades ahead because he has been brave enough to reach out and work with other faith communities. NSW is a better place because of the leadership Darren has shown. It has been an honour to work with him and to be able to call him my friend.

JCA CEO Alain Hasson

Darren’s contribution to and for our community in such a short space of time has been significant and for this we thank him. In particular for JCA, his facilitation of additional government funding for specific communal organisations has been tremendously helpful and we hope will continue and have a lasting impact.

Jewish House CEO Rabbi Mendel Kastel

It’s been a pleasure working with Darren. We worked together closely, particularly on the Rosh Hashanah shofar blowing project. We wish him well.

Our Big Kitchen CEO Rabbi Dr Dovid Slavin

He has always been very professional, very respectful and brought dignity to the institution and the community.

Healing wounds, the Jewish and Croatian community come together

Ben Schneiders and Simone Fox Koob
SMH/The Age
June 25, 2023

They were some of the ugliest scenes observed in Australian sport for years.

Three Sydney United fans were charged for making Nazi salutes at October’s Australia Cup soccer final, while nearby another fan flew the Ustasha flag – the emblem of the murderous World War II regime of the Nazi-puppet state of Croatia.

The salutes at the match led to condemnation including that of commentator and former Socceroo and Craig Foster, who described it as “the most abhorrent thing that we’ve seen at a football match for a very long time”.

Last week, there was an important step in making amends.

Representatives of the Jewish community and Sydney United – a storied football club created by Croatian migrants in 1958 – met on Monday at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Their meeting came days after a recent investigation by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, which uncovered how major sporting and cultural clubs in Australia’s large Croatian community openly celebrate fascist anniversaries while displaying emblems, flags and maps of the Ustasha regime.

In response to those stories, Croatia’s ambassador to Australia, Betty Pavelich, said there was no place for the “glorification of totalitarian regimes, extremism or intolerance”.

The investigation has since been translated and reproduced or referenced in at least 10 news sites in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia.

After last week’s meeting, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Darren Bark said he had been impressed with Sydney United’s determination to tackle the issue of racism within the club’s supporter base.

“We’ve been working very closely with Sydney United behind the scenes to ensure a better culture among the fans,” he said.

Bark said the meeting with the club’s coach and a board member was part of an ongoing process. “I see the club’s participation sending a very clear message that racist behaviour of any kind is not tolerated.”

Sydney United head coach Miro Vlastelica described the visit to the Jewish Museum as a “humbling experience” and “very educational” about the struggles of the Jewish people and others during the war. “One that makes me feel grateful for what we have today – peace, friendship and multiculturalism that this great country has given us,” he said.

“It also touched home, as it reminded me of the struggles that my family and community were also subject to during and after the war, and having lost family members in horrible circumstances at the hands of dictators.”

Sydney United has some active far-right supporters who have regularly displayed Ustasha or Nazi symbols over many years. A statement by the club issued after the Australia Cup final warned it would not welcome fans that were not respectful: “Their views will never be tolerated.”

But that position created a backlash from some, and the Sydney United Supporters (SUS) group said on Facebook: “On behalf of SUS we don’t apologise to anyone. ZDS (za dom spremni).” The chant at the end of the message was the same as that used by the far-right Ustase movement in the 1930s and 1940s.

Football Australia fined Sydney United $15,000 in November for the fan behaviour and hit the club with a series of suspended sanctions. Part of making amends was compulsory education and training with Jewish and First Nations groups.

Bark said the salutes were “vile symbols” with “no place in modern Australia”. “They are not only an affront to the Jewish community but to all Australians,” he said.

He said displaying a Nazi symbol was not only “abhorrent but is illegal as well”.

Three men were charged under NSW laws for making the salutes and have said they will plead not guilty. In NSW, laws against Nazi symbols are the broadest in Australia, allowing discretion to the courts to define what a Nazi symbol is. Laws in Victoria – and proposed federal laws – are narrower, proscribing a limited number of Nazi symbols.

While Sydney United is taking steps to tackle racism, there has been no public response from the Melbourne Knights Football Club to an April 10 incident, when six men were filmed doing stiff-armed salutes as they sang a song extolling the Ustasha.

Melbourne Knights president Pave Jusup declined to comment.

In the days before The Age and Sydney Morning Herald investigation was published, Jusup removed two of his social media accounts on which he is pictured posing in front of an Ustasha flag. But he has since restored the accounts with that image.

The Ustasha’s legacy includes laws persecuting Serbs, Jews and Roma, stripping them of their rights and establishing concentration camps, including one for children. The ethnic cleansing, done with the agreement of Nazi Germany, is considered by scholars to constitute genocide.

Football Australia has refused to comment directly on the incident at the Knights, citing the fact that the salutes did not occur at a football match or function.

“For this reason, we aren’t able to pass comment,” a spokesperson said.

Football Victoria has not responded to requests for comment.