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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 1064


Mr HAYES (Fowler) (18:16): I rise to support Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2012-2013 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2012-2013. I noticed in the papers that this bill includes, amongst other things, recognition of funding of settlement services, particularly with respect to refugees and new arrivals, and the fostering of multiculturalism. In doing that, I thought this might be an opportunity to talk about multiculturalism as I experience it in my electorate. As most members of the House are aware, because I say it regularly, I do have the most multicultural electorate in the whole of Australia. That is something I am indeed very proud of. I am very honoured to be their representative in this federal parliament.

Last weekend, the Vietnamese and Chinese communities from all over the world came together to greet and celebrate the arrival of the Lunar New Year. This marks the transition from the Year of the Dragon to this year, the Year of the Snake, which carries the meaning of wisdom, intelligence, opportunities and change—not as I joked in one of the speeches during the course of that celebration, the year of politicians. It has nothing to do with us at all, other than the hope that we have the necessary wisdom in this place.

Since becoming the member for Fowler I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity on three occasions to attend and join a number of the celebrations that mark the Lunar New Year. Vietnamese New Year, commonly known as Tet, marks the arrival of spring in the Vietnamese homeland. Tet or Chinese New Year is considered one of the biggest and most popular festivals in the Vietnamese and Chinese community, and is celebrated on the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar. No matter where Tet or Chinese New Year is celebrated, the beginning of the new lunar year is not just a day, but occupies several days of celebration. I have been attending celebrations throughout my electorate over the last two weeks. I am reliably assured that it is likely to continue for the next couple of weeks.

To give an indication, on Saturday 2 February I had the pleasure of attending the Tet festival at Fairfield showground in Sydney's south west along with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who formally opened the Tet festival celebrations. Despite the very inclement weather that Sydney had been experiencing over that weekend, which left Fairfield showground a quagmire of mud, the rain did not stop the joy of the celebration and it certainly did not stop the 30,000 people that attended over the three days that it was held. It was a remarkable contribution with respect to multiculturalism.

Not minding the rain, my wife, Bernadette, and my four grandchildren, Nathanial, Noah, Charlie and Maisy—Maisy has just turned two—turned up at the festival wearing traditional Vietnamese ao dais, much to the photographer's delight. Again it was certainly one of the festivals that really lends itself to the true practice of multiculturalism.

The spectacular colours, music and, of course, fireworks mark a tradition in Vietnamese culture that has now been celebrated for centuries. I congratulate the Vietnamese Community in Australia New South Wales chapter, in particular their President, Mr Thanh Nguyen, for once again holding such a successful event under very challenging circumstances in south-west Sydney. Mr Nguyen is a very good friend, and I see the work that the association does on behalf of the community. I commend him, his committee and the volunteers for all the hard work and great efforts in organising an event that enables the larger Vietnamese community to come together and celebrate. One thing that was remarked on and that was a key point of the celebrations was the recognition of all those Vietnamese students who had in excess of 99 per cent in their higher school certificate. Again, it is a showcase of education and attainment.

On 3 February I also had the opportunity of attending the Sydney Indo-Chinese Youth Sports Association's new year celebration. For many years now the association has provided sporting, training and cultural activities for the younger Chinese generations in my electorate. Mr Thay Lim, president of the association, has given local young people an opportunity to learn about the traditional and cultural performances within the Chinese tradition. I was very impressed with the work undertaken by Mr Lim and his management committee and was certainly captivated by the talented performances including martial arts, acrobatics and a taekwondo self-defence display that was demonstrated by the young people.

Last Friday the president of the Asian Chamber of Commerce, Mr Tranh Nguyen, together with the Mayor of Fairfield, Mr Frank Carbone, invited me to attend with them and hundreds of other residents the Lunar New Year celebration in Canley Heights. The Asian Chamber of Commerce has supported and provided a strong voice for local Asian business men and women that have settled in Australia and is helping them with networking and innovative marketing as well as helping to expand their businesses in our country.

Having celebrated the lunar new year for three years now I am well aware that the lunar new year is an occasion for family reunion and a time for both Vietnamese and Chinese to express their respect for and remembrance of their ancestors. It also has a long and deep rooted tradition for families to visit pagodas and pay their respects at the various temples. I was honoured to be invited to the Phuoc Hue Temple by the Most Venerable Thich Phuoc Dat for the new year celebration and the countdown to the actual new year. The temple is one of the biggest and most popular in Sydney's west, and there were more than 40,000 people attending the temple for celebrations last Saturday.

The new year celebrations involved live entertainment, traditional foods and sensational fireworks display. A major part of the celebration each year is the energetic and vibrant line dancing. In that respect I should indicate that, by tradition, the lion represents joy and happiness and, I understand, lions are often summoned to bring luck and good fortune.

I acknowledge the hard work of Dong Tam, an association that is comprised of many school students who have worked very hard in developing their skills in martial arts and also in producing a spectacular line dancing display that they did.

On Sunday I attended, together with many of our community leaders, the Mingyue Lay Temple, which is the Buddhist temple in Bonnyrigg, for their new year's celebration. This temple follows the Chinese tradition. The temple is led by the President of the Australian Chinese Buddhist Society, Vincent Kong. The vice-chairman of the temple is James Chan, who has been a very good friend over many years before I came to represent Fowler. I have spoken in this place on many occasions about him, his goodwill and his generosity to the community. This event certainly showcased the value of multiculturalism in South-West Sydney.

After attending that temple I visited the Australian Chin Lien Chinese Association. Their temple is the Kuan Yin Temple. It is led by President Michael Chan and they took me through their Buddhist religious celebrations. I also had a chance to talk to Michael Chan and his committee about their involvement with aged care. They are very committed to providing services within the community. They are trying to provide specialised aged-care arrangements for vulnerable members of the Chinese community in Western Sydney. We should recognise the very good work they are doing on behalf of the broader community.

On Sunday I also visited the Vietnamese Catholic Association to pay my respects. As a Catholic I attended mass with Father Paul Van Chi and his parishioners at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Mount Pritchard. Father Paul Van Chi is a remarkable person. He is very strongly committed to raising awareness of human rights abuses in Vietnam. It is in that respect I have worked very closely with him over the past three years. He is certainly a man who understands that the success of a modern Vietnam must start with the country recognising and honouring the human rights and dignity of the people of Vietnam.

I have always taken pride in Australia's multiculturalism. Particularly in Western Sydney it is not just words; it is something you feel out there. This is something we do very well. My grandchildren growing up in this environment will take for granted being able to become involved in various traditions and cultures and to experience their spiritual as well as their culinary delights. That is going to be something that is part and parcel for the up-and-coming generation.

I am very proud to represent this community in the federal parliament. In excess of 30 per cent of my community have an Asian background. The opportunity to learn about the different Asian customs and traditions has made me as an individual more respectful of the cultural values and beliefs of these communities. We as a nation should be particularly proud at times like this that bring the broader Australian community together. We should savour the depth and vibrancy of our multiculturalism because this is something we do very well.

It also reminds me of the valuable contribution that the Asian community have made to Australian multiculturalism. Clearly the Vietnamese have called Australia home for no more than 38 years, since the fall of Saigon, yet it is hard to think of any other group of immigrants to this country that have made such a remarkable contribution in such a short period of time, whether it be through academia, the professions or the trades. Their general involvement in the community is to my way of thinking unparalleled. I recall that, within two weeks of the Queensland floods, a group of Vietnamese doctors in my local community set up their own fundraising.

They raised $140,000 over that period through the generosity of the Vietnamese community. One of the doctors, Dr Lieu, told me there was an old Vietnamese saying, and it loosely translates like this: when you eat the fruit of the tree, you have regard for the people who planted the seed. He said that, within Vietnamese custom, coming to Australia was something that gave them opportunity. Therefore, when other Australians were in need, it was their turn to try to help—and they take that very, very seriously. I have to say, to see that in action is something that is quite humbling.

I hope the Year of the Snake brings reward and prosperity for all, particularly those on this side of politics come 14 September. I wish all the Chinese and Vietnamese communities a very joyous and happy New Year as they celebrate the Year of the Snake. So allow me to try this: kung hei fat choi; gong xi fa cai; kinh chuc moi nguoi mot nam; manh khoe, vui ve; chuc mung nam moi.