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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 2521

Mr HAYES (9:35 PM) —Like other members, today I am wearing an orange ribbon. That signifies Harmony Day, which recognises the multicultural basis of our nation. It is also a way of recognising the individuals who have come to call this country home and to celebrate the immense contribution—economic, social and cultural—they have made to the development of this country. I also welcome the recent introduction of the People of Australia policy, which recognises and encourages the obvious huge benefits of multiculturalism to Australian society.

Harmony Day and the policy are of particular interest and significance to my electorate of Fowler, which is the most culturally diverse electorate in the whole country, according to the ABS. In fact, nearly 50 per cent of the population of my electorate were born overseas. Obviously a much larger proportion has an ancestry from various regions around the world. You can imagine how significant it is for these people, as well as for our community, to be recognised for their contribution to this nation.

Lina Tjoeng, President of the Khmer Community of New South Wales, welcomed the People of Australia policy by saying that it was ‘a great recognition of the valuable contributions different cultures make to the Australian community’ and ‘It will help foster a more inclusive and harmonious society.’ Mr Kamalle Dabboussy, manager of the Liverpool Migrant Resource Centre also praised the new policy and ‘its certain positive impact on social cohesion’.

The president of Vietnamese Community Australia, Mr Thanh Nguyen, recently told me that his organisation supports and welcomes the efforts of the government that foster diversity and celebrate the contribution different cultural groups have made to this country. Mr Nguyen stresses that Australia can be proud of its position on diversity and multicultural acceptance, which distinguishes us throughout the world. He goes on to say: ‘Australia’s ability to celebrate the difference is what makes it a truly unique nation.’ Mr Nguyen strongly believes in the principles put forth by the policy, which state that the best way to integrate and improve as a society is by celebrating our differences.

Dr Ali Safras, a good friend of mine, an influential member of the Australian-Pakistani community and a person committed to religious tolerance, also welcomes the Australian government’s effort to foster multiculturalism, as ‘this is a way of fostering religious harmony’. Dr Safras also indicated that policies such as this, that ‘encourage members from various groups to feel a sense of belonging’ and value their contribution to their adopted home, Australia, are of significant value.

The recently introduced initiative to provide better aged-care facilities for elderly Australians of non-English-speaking backgrounds is also extremely significant to my multicultural electorate of Fowler. Specifically, the policy in that respect has been welcomed by the Indo-Chinese Elderly Hostel and its president, Mr Harry Tang. I visited him only the other day and saw firsthand what this age facility is doing for people of Chinese background.

The new funding for multicultural arts and festivals is also particularly welcome in my electorate. This is a community which truly knows how to celebrate its unique traditions. I have had the pleasure of attending many of the cultural events in my electorate, including the Moon Festival, the Tet festival, which celebrates the Vietnamese New Year, the Chinese New Year celebrations and the Serbian Festival, and I will be going to the Assyrian New Year festivities next weekend. This is an area of the world that knows how to celebrate its differences. All these people know that they are truly Australian. I am amazed at the colour and vibrancy of these events as well as the effort by the participants, not only to celebrate their traditions but to acknowledge their appreciation of their adopted home, Australia.

It is clear that multiculturalism is in Australia’s best interests and it is cultural diversity that makes us strong and focused on the future as a truly unique nation. (Time expired)