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Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Page: 2016

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (09:57): At present, the United Nations estimates that there are more than 43 million displaced people worldwide. It is a great shame that only 100,000 resettlement places are available annually. Australia provides through its many humanitarian resettlement programs 20,000 of these places. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate one very special organisation for their incredibly crucial contribution to how Australia welcomes refugees and asylum seekers. The Multicultural Development Association, MDA, is an independent, nongovernment settlement organisation, which is:

…committed to achieving the best settlement outcomes for our clients and to working actively to promote multiculturalism.

It is also an avenue through which committed members of both the Australian and migrant communities help each other.

Established in 1988, they have seen amazing growth within the organisation in recent times and have significantly expanded their resettlement operations. Indeed, MDA resettles newly-arrived refugees and asylum seekers now in Brisbane, Rockhampton and Toowoomba. Their wonderful Chief Executive Officer, Kerrin Benson, recently told me that in 2011-12, MDA was able to assist 2,438 clients and provide social inclusion activities for a further 1,500 community members including many refugees and residents in the electorate of Ryan. On Friday 15 March they will open their third Brisbane office so that they can continue to grow the number and quality of services they provide.

MDA supports those who enter our country in the most harrowing circumstances. Many thousands of people who come to Australia each year may have already spent many years in refugee or detention camps across the globe. Before that, we know that asylum seekers suffered from persecution, such as the Rohingyan men and women from Burma, or the Hazarah from Iran. As I have previously stated, many of these people have come a long way in treacherous and dangerous circumstances, but they come to this country because Australia has a proud record for the humanitarian treatment of refugees. Refugees look to come to our country seeking a new life. They are desperate and they will take risks. They see in Australia a stable nation, absent of the horrors of their homelands, and I can understand why they are driven to adopt this desperate course.

In December, I attended MDA's successful production of I Am Here, in conjunction with the Queensland Theatre Company and Two Thumbs Up. For all involved, it was an opportunity to share the stories of many of the refugees they have encountered. I Am Here was written and performed by six refugees who presented the stories of their own journeys in a powerful and moving way. The production gave those who saw it an insight into the courage and resilience of the refugee community, and marked their journey and their contribution to Australian society after so many years of trouble. As their program said:

By definition, refugees are survivors. They have survived because they have the courage and initiative to do so. These are exactly the qualities we value here in Australia. The real challenge for us is to help newly-arrived refugees to rebuild their lives. If we do this, we will reap the benefit of the qualities and experiences they bring to Australia.

Every year I look forward to attending MDA's Lantern Walk on World Refugee Day, and continuing to work with organisations such as MDA to support the resettlement of refugees across Australia.