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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5176


Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Government Whip) (22:04): I have expressed in this place my sense of privilege to represent the most multicultural community in the whole of Australia. Fowler is truly the melting pot of diversity with individuals coming from all over the globe to create a colourful, vibrant and harmonious community. This evening I would like to speak about the contribution the Cambodian community makes in my electorate and for the country as a whole.

There are close to 30,000 people of Cambodian origin living in Australia with 5,000 of those people calling my electorate home.

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The local Cambodian community is one of the most active and well represented. Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet with a number of representatives from various Cambodian welfare and religious organizations who are doing great work in advocating on behalf of their members. Some of the most prominent organisations are the Salvation and Cambodian Culture Association of New South Wales, the Cambodian and Australian Welfare Council, the Cambodian Buddhist Society, the Khmer Community of New South Wales, the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Cultural Centre and the Khmer Krom and Australian Buddhist Association.

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Most of these organisations are run purely by volunteers and are dependent on community donations as well as the hard work and dedication of their representatives. Luckily they are all represented by very driven and passionate people. They are people like Lina Tjoeng, President of the Khmer Community of New South Wales.

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After escaping the Pol Pot regime over 30 years ago, together with her husband Eric Tjoeng, Lina makes a wonderful contribution to our society.

Mrs Thida Yang from the Salvation and Cambodian Cultural Association of New South Wales is another individual who works hard to ensure the Cambodian community is well supported and represented. Her organisation raises generous funds for, for example, the flood victims of 2011 in Cambodia and a number of other causes, both within Australia and overseas.

The Cabramatta Lions Club, led by another prominent member of the local Cambodian community and a good friend of mine, Jenny Tew, has also made a great contribution in raising funds for important events. Jenny is a person very deservingly named as a People of Australia Ambassador. Her organisation has raised funds for such things as the Sovanapoom Care orphanages. These orphanages provide boarding and day school, emergency food relief and medical care for close to 3,000 people a week.

Although Cambodians have very successfully settled in Australia and make commendable contributions, their homeland is never far from their hearts and their minds. They never forget their roots and so many of them often send charitable donations back to Cambodia to support families and help build schools, hospitals and other forms of essential infrastructure. Organisations such as Cambodia Vision—led by its president, a very prominent local businessman, Mr Ming Lee—were established to assist Cambodian people in regional areas with free cataract and basic medical treatments. All volunteers, including doctors, reside in Australia and work on purely a voluntary basis, donating their time and their skills to assist people in need. They appreciate the great need for assistance back in Cambodia where many find themselves in very dire circumstances.

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the region, with a population of 15 million people and an extremely painful past that has left lasting scars on the community. Unfortunately, citizens of Cambodia are subject to numerous human rights abuses even today, with freedom of speech virtually non-existent and with the government suppressing all forms of media and communication. The people of Cambodia do deserve better. The Cambodian community in my electorate of Fowler, as well as other communities across Australia, has done much good work in our community on various issues. I remain committed to working with them because what they stand for and what they do is to certainly enhance and enrich the multicultural society of Fowler.