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Monday, 24 March 1997
Page: 2821

Ms ELLIS(12.04 a.m.) —Tonight I take the opportunity to talk about a couple of aspects of life in the ACT which I would like to bring to the attention of this House. Things are pretty tough, as I have said on numerous occasions in this place, in the ACT. We saw again in newspaper reports that house prices are remaining down and in fact dropping against the national trend. The economy here is in a pretty tough state at the moment.

But there is a positive side to our community which I think we need to recognise and pay tribute to, despite the difficulties they find themselves in. We have in the ACT an excellent licensed club industry. They are employers of large numbers of people. They run excellent training programs for young people and all of the clubs in the ACT, big or small, contribute very generously back to their community. They, along with a lot of other industries in the ACT at the moment, are finding it extremely difficult to continue with that sort of work because of the economic pressure they find themselves under.

However, I would like to bring to the attention of the House tonight an example of how, despite those difficulties, when something unpredictable occurs in our community the club industry is very quick to respond with the community in which they operate. We had a very tragic event in my electorate a few weeks ago when a young woman in her early 20s, I think she is 22, suffered a very violent attack. As a result of this violent assault, she received burns to 45 per cent of her body on her upper torso and face. She was in fact set alight by her assailant. She is now in the burns unit at Concord Hospital in Sydney. She is from the Laotian community—a community which celebrates a very good lifestyle in the ACT.

Needless to say, the impact on her family, as well as the community of which this young lass is a member, was immense. But it was very quickly recognised that some assistance was needed to help Monia in her treatment and recovery and to help her family through this very difficult time. So one of the large clubs in my electorate the Tuggeranong Valley Rugby Union and Amateur Sports Club got together with leaders from the Laotian community which I might add, even though it is a reasonable size, is not one of our biggest ethnic communities here, and in a matter of days arranged a very large fundraising effort. The reason for this was quite simple and quite evident—that is, because of the length of time Monia is going to be in Sydney, her family basically closed up the house and moved there to try to support her and do what they could to help.

It was recognised that some financial assistance was needed. Hundreds of people attended this function. They came from the Laotian community primarily. They came from near and far, from Sydney and from all around the region and from the ACT. It was a pleasure to walk into that room that evening and see not only a thousand or more people gathering to help out, but also the ethnic mix in that room.

The club, and particularly Mr Barry Masters, organised and sponsored the event. Many thousands of dollars were raised. The last I knew the amount was just under $9,000, but I have not heard the most recent tally. The community wish Monia a speedy and full recovery and, to her family, all the support and encouragement they need in getting through this difficult time.

The main thing that we need to note is that, despite things like economic downturns and difficulties in getting through tragedies like this, we in the ACT—as I am sure elsewhere in the country—enjoy a wonderful community spirit, which at the time that it needs to demonstrate itself has no difficulty in doing so. It is a good thing to ponder and to take time to recognise the efforts of people like Mr Masters and the staff, particularly at that club, and the organisers on the Laotian committee executive here in the ACT, and to congratulate them on having the initiative to get together so quickly to organise something so difficult so successfully.

I notice in my calendar that we will be celebrating Laotian new year on 12 April in the ACT. I don't think we could wish Monia a better Laotian new year than a successful, speedy and full recovery. My congratulations to everybody concerned in this community effort.