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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3826


Mr HAYES (Fowler) (19:15): As well as being my mother's birthday, 21 March is a significant day for all Australians. Today we celebrate our unique diversity and our harmonious community. This is Harmony Day. Today we recognise that the country we call home was built by generations of people who left their homelands in search of a better life. Other than Aboriginal people, all of us are either migrants or descended from migrants.

I proudly represent the most multicultural community in the whole of Australia. In fact, according to the ABS, 50 per cent of my electorate of Fowler were born overseas. Becoming the member for Fowler certainly allowed me to see firsthand the wonderful contributions that members of various cultural groups make not only to their respective communities but also to the general fabric of Australia itself. The contributions are widespread, ranging from economic in various fields, particularly in small business in my community, as well as a social and cultural diversity. Members of different cultural groups have introduced Australia to new cuisines as well as to vibrant and colourful customs and celebratory events, among other things.

I currently have in my office an intern from the Australian National University, Ms Amanda Pashley. I have asked her to conduct a research project that will explore the many benefits of migration to Australian society. Amanda will compare the experiences of the Vietnamese groups who migrated to Australia following the Vietnam War in the late seventies to the experiences of more recently arrived refugees. There is undoubtedly a stigma in some sections of Australian society that refugees represent a substantial cost to the host community. We rarely acknowledge the many positive contributions they make to our society.

I would like to also praise the valuable work of the migrant resource centres, including the Liverpool and Fairfield migrant resource centres in my electorate. They do a very good job in regard to the community in ensuring that people are properly settled, enabling them to become part of the general fabric of the Australian way of life.

The Fairfield MRC is led by my friend Julio Gruttulini and the coordinator Ricci Bartels. The Liverpool MRC is led by chairperson Dr Amad Mtashar and manager Kamalle Dabboussy. They work very hard with their teams to ensure that the community is aware of the many positive aspects of cultural diversity and how that can be included in our normal way of life.

As the member for Fowler, I have been able to witness firsthand these benefits. I have been privileged to attend a number of vibrant celebrations, including the Lunar New Year Festival, Tet Festival, Chinese Moon Festival—which draws in outsiders from all over Sydney into the vibrant suburb of Cabramatta—as well as the Serbian Folkloric Festival in Bonnyrigg, and many others. During these events, the various groups put on display the sounds, the tastes, the colours and the vibrancy of their homelands, while keeping in mind that they are Australian.

I have also had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary individuals who work very hard to represent their fellow countrymen in the best possible way and to make the best of their contributions to the Australian community. One such individual is James Chan, a local businessman. James is a respected and hardworking member of the business community and a member of the Australian-Chinese community. In fact he is the President of the Australian-Chinese Buddhist Society. He works very hard, together with his wife, Jenny. Supported by their family, they make a tremendous contribution not only to local business but through what they do for our community generally.

Amongst many other contributions, James and his army of volunteers—including Jensen Tran and Vinh Trang—work very hard with the Mingyue Lay Buddhist Temple in Bonnyrigg. The temple was established 25 years ago and draws thousands of people to the area. James is one of a number of people in my diverse electorate who do everything possible to ensure that we live in a harmonious and inclusive society. (Time expired)