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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2096


Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (13:25): I rise to pay tribute to the Multicultural Women's Council of Tasmania. On Saturday night, I was fortunate to join the council for their International Women's Day dinner in Hobart. This dinner was also a celebration of the council's 10th anniversary of operation within our community. It was a great night—a full and colourful celebration of Tasmania's multicultural communities and the work of the council. For 10 years now, the council has played a very important role as a voice for migrant women in Tasmania. The council has helped welcome migrant women and refugees to Tasmania and has helped many of them to overcome barriers they face, especially in relation to language.

Tasmanians speak around 129 different languages, which shows the growing diversity within my home state. Tasmania, and indeed Australia, has been built on multiculturalism. We strive to be a fair and inclusive society which respects and supports cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. It is a part of our national identity. We are at our best as a nation when we embrace every faith, every flag and every culture. That reality is at the heart of multiculturalism, and it has been and will continue to be vital to the prosperity of this nation. Migration has made Australia a richer as well as a more culturally diverse and interesting society. The findings in the report The economic impact of migration concluded that by 2050 migration will have added over 15 per cent to our workforce participation rate, added nearly 22 per cent to after-tax real wages for low-skilled workers and, significantly, added close to six per cent in GDP per capita growth.

But for us, as a country, to reap the many benefits of a diverse and multicultural community we rely on the hard work of organisations like the council. The council does Tasmania a great service by fostering enduring cultural and social cohesion and, in doing so, supports multicultural communities to make a substantial contribution to our national prosperity—both social and economic. Earlier this year, I was fortunate to attend a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day and watch 68 new citizens from 27 different countries take the pledge. Some of the new citizens had only been in Tasmania for two years and others for more than 40 years. But each and every one of them has contributed to making Hobart the vibrant and diverse city it is today. They have added so much to our community. For many people, over the last 10 years, this contribution is made possible by the work of the council.

In particular, I acknowledge the outstanding contribution to the Multicultural Women's Council by Sajini Sumar. Sajini has worked tirelessly to help migrant women adjust to their new lives. Sajini has been a long-term volunteer amongst the migrant community in Tasmania and is the founding member and convener of the Multicultural Women's Council of Tasmania. In addition to her work through the council, Sajini has served on many community boards, including the Migrant Resource Centre, the International Wall of Friendship and the Multicultural Council for Tasmania. She was also previously the Tasmanian counsellor for the National Ethnic Disability Alliance and is a member of the Network of Immigrant and Refugee Women of Australia. Her work in Tasmania for our newly arrived migrants and refugees has been tireless. She has worked to give a voice to many multicultural women within our community.

I also want to briefly thank the council for the award they gave me. It was a surprise and I was very humbled, and I thank them for their honour. In recognising what women have achieved, it is critical that we look forward to the challenges still to come. And we know that in Australia many women from diverse cultural backgrounds face additional barriers. As the former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick argued, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are among the most disadvantaged groups in Australia. She said, 'The barriers for women of multicultural backgrounds remain immense.' We must all work harder to ensure that women from different cultural backgrounds are not discriminated against. We must ensure they are treated fairly and with respect. While we have much to celebrate, progress towards parity has been too slow, particularly for culturally and linguistically diverse women. But I remain hopeful that the work and strong advocacy of organisations like the council will help overcome this.