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Wednesday, 19 September 2001
Page: 31046


Mr ROSS CAMERON (7:34 PM) —There is no doubt that every one of the 148 electorates in this place has been touched in one way or another by the events in Washington DC and New York on Tuesday of last week, and my electorate is no exception. It has become clear that one of the passengers on one of the four aircraft that crashed was a constituent of mine from Westmead. Mrs Yvonne Kennedy was well known to the electorate as a consequence of her charity work for the Red Cross. I know there is one grieving family among literally thousands who have lost a loved one, and I want to extend my condolences to the Kennedy family.

Also in my electorate there is a completely irrational expression of prejudice and vandalism at the St Mary's Orthodox Antiochian Church at Mays Hill. It is a magnificent church building, with some of the finest Antiochian iconography inside. It has a thriving congregation. The Antiochian orthodox are led by the extraordinarily dynamic metropolitan archbishop, Paul Saliba, who came to Australia only in the last year and whose absolute dedication to the young people of the Antiochian orthodox community is evidenced in everything the church does. They have this magnificently vibrant active core of young people who are making an excellent contribution as model citizens in my electorate.

I had a phone call today from Sister Irene Boughosn, who is the principal at Our Lady of Lebanon School at Harris Park. She called to express her anxiety at the treatment that some of her pupils were receiving at the train stations and at bus stops on their way to and from school. In the same way, the graffiti that was splashed across the Antiochian church attacked the Jewish and Lebanese community in this apparently random and irrational expression of prejudice. At a time like this we have to ensure that these acts of incredible inhumanity in other places around the world do not provide the pretext for random expressions of prejudice and bigotry against completely undeserving individuals and communities.

I note for the benefit of the House that the youth masses at Our Lady of Lebanon in Harris Park, presided over by Father Geoffrey, regularly attract 800 to 1,000 young Lebanese Australians. When they recently decided to make a contribution by way of charitable fundraising to the Geraldine Fund for Cancer Research at Westmead Hospital, the youth group met over six nights, concluding with an event at which they attracted 200 sponsors. On that one occasion, they raised $70,000 for the Geraldine Fund for Cancer Research. If the example of the young Lebanese Maronites at Our Lady of Lebanon were taken up by the broader Australian community, examples of generosity, of dedication and of civic pride, there is no doubt that my electorate would be a better place than it already is. I particularly want to extend my congratulations to the youth group and to Father Geoffrey and to note that they will be meeting tomorrow night for a mass in solidarity with the grieving families of those tragedies in Washington and New York. I think it behoves each of us to approach these issues with restraint and with the best in our nature and to follow the examples of others, whether they be in the Islamic community, the Antiochian Orthodox or, in particular, the young Maronites that I recognise tonight who are making an outstanding contribution to the Australian nation.