The Ethics Centre: Highlights of 2018

Sometimes, good people do bad things. The last year confirmed this. Banks, schools, universities, the military, religious institutions – it seems 2018 left no sector unshaken.

These are the sorts of issues we confront every day at The Ethics Centre. In our reviews and confidential advice we have seen similar patterns repeat over and over again.

Yes, bad apples may exist, but we find ethical issues arise from bad cultures. And even our most trusted institutions, perhaps unwittingly, foster bad behaviour.

That’s why we have an important job. With your support we help society understand why ethical failures happen and provide safeguards lest they repeat.

As The Ethics Centre approaches its 30th birthday, we’d love to say we’re no longer needed. We hoped to bring ethics to the centre of everyday life and think we’ve made a small dent into that task. But there’s no point pretending there’s not a long way to go.

We thank you for supporting us and believing in us and are proud to share the highlights of another busy year with you.


If you’re short on time to read the full report now (and we’d really love you to take a look some time at what a small organisation like ours can achieve), here are seven highlights we’re particularly proud of:

• We launched The Ethics Alliance. A community of organisations unified by the desire to lead, inspire and shape the future of how we do business. In one year, 37 companies have benefited from the innovative tools that help staff at all levels make better decisions.

• We published a paper on public trust and the legitimacy of our institutions. Our conversations with regulators, investors, business leaders and community groups, revealed a sharp decline in the trust of our major institutions. We identify the agenda they need to in order to maintain public trust and contribute meaningfully to the common good.

• We ramped up Ethi-call. Calls to our free, independent, national helpline increased by 74 per cent this year. That’s even more people to benefit from impartial, private guidance from our highly trained ethical counsellors.

• We reviewed the culture of Australian cricket. When the ball-tampering scandal hit the world stage, Cricket Australia asked us to investigate. We uncovered a culture of ambition, arrogance, and control, where “winning at all costs” indicted administrators and players alike.

•We released a guide to designing ethical tech. Technology is transforming the way we experience reality. The need to make sure we don’t sacrifice ethics for growth is more pressing than ever. We propose eight principles to guide the development of all new technologies before they hit the market. You can download it here.

•We redesigned the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. FODI was created to facilitate courageous public conversation. The Ethics Centre and UNSW’s Centre for Ideas collaborated to untether the festival and produce a bold and necessary world-class cultural event. Every session sold out.

• We grew our tenth year of IQ2. We doubled the number of live attendees and tripled the student base showing audiences are more intelligent and hungry for diverse ideas than they are often given credit for. We welcomed a new sponsor Australian Ethical whose values align with our own. There’s never been a better time to support smart, civic, public debate.

Download: The Ethics Centre Annual Report 2017-2018