One-on-one with the new NSW Premier, Chris Minns
‘I’ve always had a really close relationship with the Jewish community’
NSW Labor has pledged $5 million towards an expansion of the Sydney Jewish Museum if elected, Opposition Leader Chris Minns told The AJN this week.
It follows the Perrottet government’s announcement last week of $6.5 million in extra funding – bringing its total commitment to $10 million – towards plans to expand and transform the museum.
“I have looked at the Sydney Jewish Museum’s master plan, a $50 million redevelopment, and I think it’s got enormous merit,” Minns said in a wide-ranging AJN interview on Monday.
“I believe it does amazing work. And we would be more than happy to sit down with the trustees of the museum about future potential expansion.”
Minns recalled visiting the museum as a high school student.
“It had a massive impact on me and when I went back as a guest about three months ago, I took my two oldest boys along as well, just so they could see it firsthand,” he said.
Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM) president Greg Shand said the recent upsurge in antisemitism “only serves to highlight the importance of the museum seeking to double its impact by doubling the number that visit annually”.
“We are incredibly grateful for Labor’s commitment, which will go a long way in making this a reality,” he said.
The SJM aims to create two centres in one precinct – a Sydney Holocaust Museum to share the history and testimonies of survivors and a Centre for Contemporary Jewish Life, to share the community’s culture, traditions and contributions to Australia.
CEO Kevin Sumption said an expanded museum in 2026 will see “new, vibrant programming that celebrates Jewish life in Australia and works harder towards combating racism and antisemitism”.
“The new museum precinct will put a new focus on the celebration and demystification of Jewish life and culture, and will employ new technologies to continue to share the important lessons of the museum’s founding Holocaust survivors around inclusion and respect,” Sumption said.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) CEO Darren Bark said the JBD was pleased to arrange the visit to the museum for Minns and his family late last year.
“During that visit, we heard first-hand the incredible life story of Holocaust survivor Joe Symon, and about the dangers of racism and hate speech. It was a deeply emotional visit and one that will have a long-lasting and meaningful impact for years to come,” Bark said.
JBD president David Ossip added, “Our community is immensely grateful for bipartisan support to enhance and expand the Sydney Jewish Museum which will facilitate greater awareness and education about the horrors of the Holocaust.
“The board acknowledges and thanks the NSW government and the NSW Labor Party for their respective commitments to keeping survivors’ memories alive and ensuring the Shoah is not forgotten, and never repeated.”
One-on-one with Opposition Leader Chris Minns
‘I’ve always had a really close relationship with the Jewish community’
Can you reflect on your engagement with the Jewish community, your perceptions of the community and the role it plays in the larger tapestry of NSW since you’ve been in Parliament?
My connection with the Jewish community goes back a long way. In my early days in politics, I went with the Australia–Israel Chamber of Commerce to Israel on a delegation, in 2003. It had a massive impact on me and I made friends with the Jewish community from that.
I’ve always had a really close relationship and dialogue with the Jewish community in Sydney. I went to an all-boys Catholic school, but I do credit it to some of my teachers, who had what they believed was an obligation to explain to us kids, the Holocaust in particular, and antisemitism as an inscrutable evil in the world.
And in public life it’s been a real privilege to get to know senior members of the Jewish community.
How has it been engaging with the Southern Sydney Synagogue as a local member?
Oh, the best. I love [president] George Foster. They’re good friends of mine, and they’ve been so welcoming to me and my family. We’ve often ducked up there without any media or social media posts or anything. From time to time, we’ve been able to help with small grants to ensure that there’s maintenance on the synagogue.
Following the Perrottet government’s announcement last week, will Labor also make a commitment to the Sydney Jewish Museum?
We’re announcing $5 million of additional funding for the Sydney Jewish Museum for a redevelopment project. That’s in addition to the $15 million that we’ve already allocated for faith communities to improve safety and security. I have looked at the Sydney Jewish Museum’s master plan, a $50 million redevelopment, and I think it’s got enormous merit.
I went to the museum as a high school student. It had a massive impact on me and when I went back as a guest about three months ago, I took my two oldest boys along as well, just so they could see it firsthand.
So I believe it does amazing work. And we would be more than happy to sit down with the trustees of the museum about future potential expansion.
If elected, you will establish a Premier’s panel on racism and extremism. How did the thinking around that come about?
Mainly from speaking to the community. We have made policy suggestions – some of which have been taken up by the government – in relation to acute antisemitism, racism and vilification in the community. But at the acute level, in some ways, members of the Jewish community in particular told me it’s too late – it’s been ingrained within a family or a community and as a result, the manifestation of it is horrible.
So if there are ways that we can engage at an earlier level with senior members of the Jewish community and make decisions about, including for example, the Holocaust in the school curriculum, or even the antecedents of the Weimar Republic and how the rise of Nazism took hold through democracy, these are really important historical events that need to be understood by the next generation.
And I think that can only really happen by having a deeper understanding of what the community is facing.
Part of that is a reporting portal for religious bullying, which is sorely needed.
That’s right. So then it can be monitored at the highest levels of the government. I don’t want the victims of racism and vilification to suffer in silence. I want it exposed. And history has shown the way to confront aggressive antisemitism, aggressive racism in our community, is for good, decent people to stand up and call it out immediately and let the broader public know that this is never, ever acceptable.
You’ve made a large commitment to security funding for faith institutions. What is your sense of the challenges that the Jewish community faces in particular with security?
We start from the premise that the Jewish community is the target and victim of antisemitism, that can sometimes manifest itself in violence, damage, vandalism and intimidation.
We have a multicultural, multi-faith community in NSW. In my view, it’s the wonder of the world, but you need to protect religious institutions and no one should feel threatened or violated for practising their beliefs. And that won’t happen in NSW under Labor.
It does require financial support, it does require an investment. The commitment is also a message to the Jewish community, that we acknowledge that it is a problem and that we’re not going to turn our back on vilification, discrimination or vandalism of religious institutions, particularly synagogues.
If elected Premier, would you consider doing an official trip to Israel and also to expand trade and innovation partnerships with Israel?
Look, I’d love to do that. Obviously, I think the challenges faced in NSW in the short and medium run are pretty intense and are going to require my full focus, but I’d love to go back to Israel, either in a private capacity or a professional capacity. I just love the country, love the people, and I’d love my kids to be able to see it firsthand.
I’ve certainly seen some of the latest innovations, particularly in relation to health, which could save the state an enormous amount of money [with] really innovative solutions around early intervention and the latest high-tech screening processes that I’ve seen come out of the Israeli health tech sector.
You have spoken very strongly against BDS. There is concern that in some Labor branches there are pro-BDS elements. What assurance can you give the community that those voices won’t have any influence?
I don’t support BDS. We won’t support it in government. I’ve been really clear about that. Labor policy is directed by the leadership of the parliamentary Labor Party. We’ve been able to demonstrate that as an opposition. We’ve supported the IHRA definition of antisemitism through the NSW parliamentary caucus and motions through the Parliament.
And I’ve been unambiguously opposed to BDS and made it very clear that that will be the government’s position if we’re elected. I can’t speak for every Labor Party member, I don’t think in a big, broad political party people would expect me to, but the leadership of the party is unambiguous.
There’s a push by the federal Parliamentary friends of IHRA for universities to adopt the definition. Would you encourage that if elected Premier?
I just don’t know what the implications would be at the university level. It’s certainly not a no, but I’d like to just get more information about it if I could.
Lastly, could you say a few words about Walt Secord, who has been a longstanding Member of Parliament and an advocate for our community, and is leaving politics?
Walt’s a friend of mine and he remains a friend of mine. He’s contributed enormously to the Labor Party’s success in opposition. We haven’t won an election yet, but we’re certainly a lot more competitive than we were.
He’s a passionate believer in both the Labor Party and the Jewish community in NSW, and if we are elected, I’ve no doubt that I’ll be speaking to him about the future direction of the state of NSW.