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Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Page: 1802


Mr WATTS (Gellibrand) (09:36): I rise today to acknowledge the efforts of the Polish Club Albion and their soccer team, the Western Eagles Football Club. I recently attended the 45th annual Polish Sports Festival on a sunny Sunday morning in Melbourne's west. It was a wonderful day marked by two of Melbourne's west's great passions—delicious food and great sporting contests. I was particularly proud that the Western Eagles beat Polonia Adelaide to take the Polonia Cup—a well-deserved outcome, regardless of what the member for Adelaide may think. The Polish club committee, led by president Andrew Korab, should be congratulated for organising such a fantastic day.

The festival was also another example of achievement in Melbourne's west—the sharing and celebration of different cultures to create a modern Australian identity. The Western Eagles Football Club was started by Polish immigrants who looked for a way to share something they loved from their community back home with their new nation. After decades of hard work to build the grounds and facilities of the Polish club for their community, the Polish club and Western Eagles have now welcomed players from new African-Australian communities in Melbourne's west to their junior teams. One generation of migrants in Melbourne's west are not only maintaining their own valuable cultural heritage and making a contribution to the strength of their broader community but also reaching out to a new generation of migrants and showing them, through practical example, how Australian multiculturalism works. Australian multiculturalism is a brand of multiculturalism that blends a celebration of different cultures with tolerance and respect for the civic responsibilities that we all share as Australians. It is a brand of multiculturalism fostered by crucial programs such as Western Eagles Football Club, for it is in pursuit of a shared goal—in this case a literal shared goal—that differences fade and friendships are formed.

The previous Labor government wanted to assist the good work of the Polish Club Albion by the award of a grant through the Building Multicultural Communities Program to improve the club's facilities. Notably, it would have allowed for improved girls' toilets so that the inclusive nature of the club would extend to girls as well, ensuring that neither gender nor race would act as a setback to inclusion. The Polish club was thrilled to receive news of this grant. Draft agreements were enthusiastically pored over when they arrived from the department. It was unthinkable to the Polish club that the new government would not honour this commitment, considering the money had been allocated in last year's budget. But the Polish club, like so many other community associations around Australia, were informed of the cancellation of this grant in December of last year. Now the committee must look to other sources to find the $160,000 required to make essential repairs to the roof of the club. It is a hardship that the Polish club should not have to experience.

Labor is taking the removal of these grants very seriously. On 20 January, the shadow minister for multiculturalism, Michelle Rowland, visited the Polish club with me and saw firsthand the difference the grants would have made. She noted:

The best way that governments can help build inclusive, harmonious communities is from the bottom up, by supporting grassroots programs like this.

I share this view. Cancelling these grants was a breach of faith for the multicultural communities of Australia. The Prime Minister needs to explain to the Polish club why this government's policy is that the club's work is not worth supporting.