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Monday, 24 November 1997
Page: 11081


Mr QUICK(3.27 p.m.) —Labai aciu, Mr Deputy Speaker. Prasau, I think I heard you reply.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —You did.


Mr QUICK —I am delighted to speak today on the motion moved by the honourable member for Lowe (Mr Zammit), especially as I consider myself to be part of the Australian-Lithuanian community. I also had the privilege during 1994 of being a member of a parliamentary delegation to tour the Baltic states and experience at first-hand these wonderful countries, to learn more of their history and culture, and to experience just a little of the emotion of the people.

We were extremely fortunate to arrive in that part of the world on the day the USSR forces finally left after 50 years of occupation. I can recount going to the cathedral in Tallinn on many evenings and hearing people singing their national songs and anthem totally unencumbered from Russian occupation. I did not understand a word, but the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I explored parts of their country and parts of Latvia and Lithuania people had not seen for 50 years. They were in tears saying, `This is our land and you are seeing it for the first time as we are.'

My late father-in-law, Jonas, and his wife, Jadviga, and family arrived in 1949—a couple of years later, probably in the second wave. Like all migrants to this country at that time, they were dispersed to various parts of the country. My in-laws were sent to the Newcastle region and soon became part of what was known as the factory fodder. Factories throughout the country took advantage of their marvellous work ethic and, in many cases, their tremendous work experience. How many had their homeland qualifications totally ignored by the imperious Australian bureaucracy and suffered unnecessarily because of it?

Working tirelessly, these Baltic migrants and their extended family who came out with them soon established themselves in their newly adopted land and began to contribute in so many ways to the Europeanisation of the Australian way of life. I remember as a young child growing up in Port Augusta, at first year high school, being introduced to part of this new wave of Baltic migrants coming to South Australia and the mind shift that we had to experience when we could not understand what they said. We could not even pronounce some of their names.

These Baltic migrants quickly set up their own various community organisations—initially, to overcome the many cultural hassles that they experienced in this new land and, as time progressed, to relive the wonderful heritage they brought with them. Anyone who has experienced, either in Australia at many of their cultural festivals or overseas at many of their songfests, the inspiring choral works and the traditional dances of the Baltic people cannot be but moved by the fantastic heritage they have to offer us as Australians.

In my brief time I want to mention one of the outstanding Lithuanians who have contributed to our nation's social and cultural development. This person is Olegas Truchanas. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Kerr) is here and he too would share in the fact that this man is revered in Tasmania. He was one of Australia's first environmentalists and, in many people's mind, the father of the Australian conservation movement. His exploration of the Tasmanian wilderness, his fantastic mentoring role for many thousands of Australians and his photographic and botanic records of this magnificent part of the south-west of Tasmania have inspired all of us.

It will also be remiss of me not to mention Aldona Zackarauskas, the famous Lithuanian-Australian artist, and, I must add, part of my extended Lithuanian-Australian family. Her modern art is highly sought in Australia and overseas. I and my two daughters, Sarah and Hannah, have experienced at first-hand the magnificent experiences that the cultural diversity of this part of the world has contributed to Australia's wellbeing as a nation. We are bilingual. When we visit Sydney we are expected to understand a fair bit of Lithuanian. Even my dog understands basic commands in Lithuanian. I commend the honourable member for Lowe for this wonderful gesture. Like he, I would support it wholeheartedly.