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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 13037


Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (09:51): I represent a very diverse and very rich multicultural electorate. Like most members—and some have spoken here today—I am very familiar with the challenges migrant communities face when they first settle, certainly in the suburbs of the federal seat of Calwell. Successful integration into the broader Australian community and successfully carving out a better life for themselves and for their families is very much the narrative of the Australian migrant story. It is for this reason that I want to speak about the Bhutanese community, which is one of several emerging refugee communities in my own electorate of Calwell.

Over the period of time since settling in our local community, the Bhutanese community has adjusted I would say successfully to the Australian way of life. Their participation in our community has progressed now to such an extent that they are themselves in a position to begin making their own unique contribution to the broader community in which they live in and they very happily call home.

Very recently, I wrote a letter of support for the Bhutanese Organisation of Australia to receive funding for their annual festival, called 'Celebrating Multicultural Victoria in Harmony'. I am very pleased to inform the House that my community has received a $5,000 grant and that this coming Saturday I am going to have the great honour of being their guest at this very wonderful and newly emerging festival in the federal seat of Calwell.

When one takes into consideration that the Bhutanese community are, as I said, an emerging refugee community, one has to say that they have come a very long way. They have done so despite many of them having spent many, many years in UNHCR refugee camps. They have been victims of torture since their eviction from Bhutan, especially from 1990 onwards. They are people who have come to this country with a whole experience of hardship and difficulty—stuck in camps, as the member for Chifley rightly says. Many of them have settled here under our humanitarian program.

The festival that I will be attending on the weekend is their contribution—a contribution they are very proud to be making—to the Australian community. It is a festival about harmony and about sharing. One thing that I want to say about the Bhutanese community is that they are the most gentle of people and, unlike other communities, they are not very aggressive in their pursuit of grants. They feel very, very privileged to be receiving assistance from us. Our aim is to teach them how to lobby effectively. I am very proud to be involved in that process. I look forward to attending the festival on Saturday. (Time expired)