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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7425

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (21:56): I rise to pay tribute to the extraordinary work of the Special Broadcasting Service, SBS, and to their continuing commitment to presenting issues of national importance in new and pioneering ways and supporting, promoting and telling the stories of multicultural and multilingual Australia.

In recent weeks more than half a million Australians in each of the five major capital cities watched the groundbreaking series Go Back to Where You Came From, which followed six ordinary Australians to some of the most dangerous places on earth: the home countries of refugee families now living in Australia. The series became a phenomenon as more than half a million people in each of the five major capital cities tuned in each night to see those six Australians, each with views representing a sector of the Australian community, experience in reverse the perilous journey of an asylum seeker. I think one of the main reasons that it was such compelling viewing was that it provided, for the first time, a window onto the world through the prism of ordinary Australians holding views that represent diverse sectors of the community—actively challenging their beliefs throughout the journey and giving others with the same views who were watching on TV at home the opportunity to take that journey with them. This approach has been incredibly effective in changing the rhetoric around the asylum seeker debate to one that is more sensitive to the enormous complexities and contradictions of the whole issue.

If there is any organisation which can tackle this issue in such an original way, it is SBS TV. They must be congratulated on their efforts and their contribution, through their TV programming, to this issue. That is because SBS have been working in this area for years, ever since the service was established in 1978 to provide special multilingual broadcasting services for ethnic communities right across Australia. From humble beginnings in 1980, SBS Television now broadcasts in more than 100 languages and is watched by more than seven million Australians each week, bringing the news to homes where otherwise that news would perhaps be lost. Today SBS's analog televĀ­ision signal reaches 96.9 per cent of all Australians across the nation while its digital service, which began in 2001, reaches an estimated 96.8 per cent of Australians, which is about the same number. SBS Radio is the world's most linguistically diverse radio network, broadcasting 68 language programs to a potential audience of more than three million Australians who speak a language other than English in their homes. Take those 68 language programs being broadcast by radio to those more than three million people in their homes. When you think about it, not being able to receive the news or not being able to understand what is taking place in your community is very disadvantageous. I think what SBS does is provide a service for people to be connected to their community and to be connected to what is happening in their world. It is about being connected to not only the far away world but also locally. It is so important for people to be able to be connected within their communities.

In my electorate of Hindmarsh alone, 132 distinct languages are spoken, from Arabic, Afrikaans, Albanian and Acholi to Vietnamese, Ukrainian, Urdu, Yoruba, Greek, Italian, Chinese—and the list could go on. And what is special is that these differences of language, heritage and culture are celebrated every single day by SBS on air, on radio and, of course, on its TV channels, SBS One and SBS Two. SBS has been bringing issues of multiculturalism to the forefront, as we have seen with Go Back to Where You Came From and award-winning shows like East West 101, which won best TV drama series, best actor and best director awards at the AFI awards as well as a gold medal for best miniseries at the New York Festivals International Television and Film Awards.

The SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member's time has expired. I say to the member 'efharisto'.