History of St James Ethics Centre
St James Ethics Centre is an independent not-for-profit organisation providing an open forum for the promotion and exploration of ethical questions arising in contemporary society.
The Ethics Centre began its life in December 1988, when its founder, the Anglican parish of St James' in King Street, Sydney formed a committee to explore the viability of establishing an ethics centre in the city.
A symposium addressing the topic Ethics Management in the 1990's - Surviving in the Corporate Era was convened by this committee in October 1989. The success of this symposium, which publicly launched the Centre, encouraged further consultations culminating in the establishment of a Board of Management in November 1989.
A name was adopted for this initiative, 'The St James Ethics Centre' (later changed to 'St James Ethics Centre'), to reflect the Centre's origins at The Parish of St James' in Sydney.
The Board then focussed on the task of clarifying basic principles and policy. The Ethics Centre became incorporated in February 1990. In July 1991 the Centre appointed its inaugural Executive Director, Dr Simon Longstaff. The Centre was granted public benevolent institution status by the Australian Taxation Office later that year.
St James Ethics Centre's original constitution nominated a formal link with the parish of St James'. However, at the 1996 Annual General Meeting, members of the Centre resolved to amend the constitution to reflect a less formal relationship with the parish, thus re-enforcing the Ethics Centre's commitment to independence and its openness to those of any or no religious faith.
The founders of St James Ethics Centre wished that it be an essentially practical organisation which would be accessible to all people of goodwill concerned with ethics. It would be independent, non-judgemental and form an integral part of the community - and these basic principles remain unchanged.
Initially the Ethics Centre's work focussed upon the promotion of business ethics in the central business district of Sydney. In the ensuing years this focus broadened to include the Centre's involvement in work on a state and national level, as well as occasionally extending its services internationally.
The scope of St James Ethics Centre's work has now expanded beyond business ethics to include virtually every kind of ethical issue arising in society.
Publishing activities commenced with a quarterly newsletter in 1991. Originally called City Ethics the newsletter continues to be published as Living Ethics. The Vincent Fairfax Ethics in Leadership Awards - now the Vincent Fairfax Fellowship - was launched in 1994. Formal training of volunteer ethics counsellors began in 1998.
Since its inception St James Ethics Centre has received financial and in-kind support from its members and other individuals and organisations, including the provision of free office accommodation. It relies heavily upon support from the private sector in order to survive.
St James Ethics Centre continues to be a unique organisation which crosses boundaries in the services it offers to an extraordinarily broad range of people, including accountants, bankers, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, farmers, journalists, lawyers, parents, police, politicians, religious leaders, teachers, taxi drivers ... and many others.