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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3138


Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (16:35): I rise to speak on the advent of St Patrick's Day; it is about to happen. This is a great weekend for all Irish men and women across the globe—the Irish diaspora. It is a great weekend for all the Irish-Australians in our community, who amount to about 10 per cent of the Australian population. It is a great day for all those people whom my father would describe as 'wish they were Irish', certainly on St Patrick's Day. I am sure that they will get out and enjoy it tremendously.

St Patrick's Day is the day on which the Irish recall the patron saint St Patrick, who, using a small clover-like plant, the shamrock, attempted to explain the concept of the Trinity. St Patrick's Day is honoured in a great mass at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney every year, and I am sure people will be there on Saturday to enjoy it. The biggest celebrations in Sydney for St Patrick's Day have been going on for nearly 30 years. And I am pleased to say that I was at those very early St Patrick's Day celebrations. This year 30,000 people are expected to attend the parade.

Something very different is happening this year. There will be pre-parade entertainment in George Street, opposite the town hall. From about 10.20 in the morning people will be able to wear the green, sing the songs, and dance the dances. And I am sure that later on, as the afternoon moves on and the parade heads up to Hyde Park, there will be a bit of drinking of the Guinness, as well!

The Irish Echo will no doubt have photographers out there and will cover the event as they do, so wonderfully, every year. I want to commend Billy Cantwell for the way he tells stories of Ireland for Irish Australians and stories of Australia for Irish Australians and records forever the history of that great community in this country.

Amongst those who will be celebrating, no doubt, will be the new Irish Ambassador to Australia, Noel White, whom I look forward to meeting over this weekend, and, of course, Orla Tunney, who is the current charge d'affaires and was in that role until the new ambassador arrived to spend some time with us here.

The Irish people are very aware of the great diaspora. Mary Robinson's very symbolic placing of the candle in the window of Aras an Uachtarain, the house in which the President resides in Ireland, is an indication of how the Irish people have spread out across the world over the years. We know that the Celtic tiger might not be quite roaring anymore and that there are, sadly, many more young Irish people leaving their shores to head off and look for work in other contexts, but around the globe the Irish people understand how important it is that this day is a day where we come together as people of Irish heritage to celebrate the best of that culture that has travelled across the world. This year I am very pleased to say that the Irish government have sent the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, to spend time with us here in Australia.

The parades that happen around the world are quite legendary: Dublin, New York, Boston, London and Sydney make the list of the top five. So I am certainly looking forward to this weekend and I encourage all those people who are Irish, or would like to be for at least one day per year, to get out and enjoy those celebrations. Congratulations to all the volunteers who pull it together. It is quite a feat to prepare something for 30,000 people.

In the time that remains to me I would also like to put on the record the incredible work that has gone on in my community over the last couple of weeks to honour International Women's Day, which was celebrated for the 101st time.

We certainly have a long way to go. Women comprise 70 per cent of the world's poor and own only 10 per cent of the world's wealth and one per cent of the world's property. Without education, that is going to remain the case. I am pleased to say that there were many young women engaged in education in my local schools, from Lisarow High School, Gosford High School, Narara Valley High and St Josephs Catholic College at East Gosford, who attended the International Women's Day march. It was rained out but, very appropriately, we ended up under cover in a shopping centre. There were a great number of speeches and performances by the girls from those schools. I congratulate Vicki Scott, who won an award for her work for women and setting up the first status of women committee in New South Wales within the council.

I also acknowledge Anne Sheehan, Gina Jeffreys and Pauline Masters, who were guest speakers and convenors of the Soroptimist International breakfast attended by a couple of hundred people at the Reef restaurant at Terrigal on Sunday. I also acknowledge the continuing work in great community education and engagement that happens at the Avoca Beach Picture Theatre. It is a wonderful little boutique theatre on the Central Coast run by Beth and Norman Hunter, who showed a fantastic film that was very well attended by local men and women. The film dealt with issues that women currently face.

I acknowledge the great effort of all those people in the community and wish everybody a very happy St Patrick's Day.