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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6821

Ms GEORGE (8:00 PM) —I rise tonight in support of the motion before the House, which, rightly, celebrates and commends the achievements and contributions of the Turkish community to our nation. We are celebrating the 42nd anniversary of the agreement between the two governments in regard to the residence and employment of Turkish citizens in Australia. It is the case that our two countries have established a unique relationship and bond based upon the sacrifices of the young men of both nations at Gallipoli.

In commemoration of that bond I am proud to recount tonight the details of a ceremonial event that has been conducted in my electorate of Throsby since 2005. The event is known as the Friendship for Life ceremony, initiated by the Port Kembla RSL sub-branch in conjunction with the local Turkish community. The annual ceremony offers a unique opportunity to not only honour our fallen war dead but also celebrate the notions of mutual respect and friendship between the two nations. The acknowledgment that these values can be attained and strengthened even in times of conflict is a crucial lesson for our children and society in general. We will continue to promote the desire for peace and understanding among all people.

The Friendship for Life ceremony was the idea of a young Turkish woman, Songul Demirci, who was touched by the famous words of the first president of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, when he stated of the Anzacs fallen at Gallipoli:

After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Those very famous words, of course, are recounted in the motion in the House this evening. The words of this pledge of friendship promoted the creation of the Friendship for Life association, with the support and guidance of the late Ray Wetherall, president of the sub-branch, and that tradition has been followed on by his son Terry and family. The event every year continues in association, as I said earlier, between the Port Kembla sub-branch and our local Turkish community.

Since 2005 we have held the annual celebration at the RSL club. This celebration has included local politicians, representatives of the RSL and representatives of the military; community groups, including the Wollongong Brass Brand and the Wollongong Harmony Chorus; and local school students, including students of Turkish descent who attend Sule College and students from our public schools in that local area. Most importantly, the ceremony commits to the bonds of friendship in our local community. We have also seen very high-level representation, including the Turkish military attache, the Turkish consulate general from Sydney and the president of the New South Wales Turkish RSL, who have all at different times since 2005 participated and paid their respects to this shared heritage between our two nations.

Friendship for Life celebrates the mutual respect and friendship between Australian and Turkish forces that transcended the Gallipoli campaign, and we hope to continue to expand upon the stated values of the organisation—that is, the values of friendship, respect, peace, honour, goodwill, humanity and tolerance. To this end, plans are afoot to introduce the Friendship for Life ceremony nationally over the years ahead. This year at the local ceremony we were pleased to have been joined by Don Rowe OAM, Deputy National President and New South Wales State President of the RSL. To aid in achieving its goals, the Friendship for Life association is intent upon maintaining and building relationships with the RSL of Australia, other multicultural and religious groups, businesses, government and the community at large. I am sure that the success of the ceremony and the message it brings will be further strengthened by the strategies for future growth and the ongoing support of our community and local politicians.

It is cause for great pride to me that this ceremony had its inception in my electorate of Throsby. The association has done a fine job in conceiving the ceremony, and it is proof of the drive, initiative and activism within the electorate and within my local Turkish community. Hopefully, with continued support, the Friendship for Life ceremony and the values it represents will become celebrated around the nation.