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Thursday, 15 May 2014
Page: 3971

Mr BYRNE (Holt) (09:42): Last Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural OneVisionAid fundraiser organised by representatives of the local Afghan community in the John Pandazopoulos Hall, in Doveton. Over 300 people attended the event. It raised over $70,000 in donations and pledges for OneVisionAid's initial project, which is to support local youth experiencing difficulties and challenges like substance abuse, depression and mental health issues and to provide support to people overseas, particularly in Afghanistan, who have suffered through war, trauma and natural disasters—which I will touch on in a second.

What I love about this particular project—it is a group of young Afghan men who have come together to do this—is that they are identifying some issues that are running throughout the community and seeking community support from the Afghan community to rectify those particular issues and integrate these young people back into the community. For that they should be commended.

I understand that OneVisionAid will be extending its remit into Afghanistan, because what it wants to do is provide education. Education is a very powerful tool. It is a tool that empowers young Afghan women in particular and young Afghan men. It gives them hope and it gives them opportunity. When I met with the executive of OneVisionAid, it was wonderful to hear their plans to reach out to young men and women in Afghanistan through Facebook, Twitter and the use of social media to do things like conduct virtual classes and reach out to those affected in war-torn areas to provide them with opportunity and hope for a better future. As I said, for that they should be commended.

In particular, what drove the event that I attended last Saturday night was their response to a tragedy that happened in the Argo district of Badakhshan in northern Afghanistan, where approximately 2,000 people died. The tragedy of this is that an initial landslide occurred through that village and when 600 people from a nearby village went to dig them out a second landslide went through. Approximately 2,000 people died. Recovery efforts and retrieval efforts are now underway. It is obviously not a rich area but OneVisionAid's support for this project is incredible. The fact that they raised over $70,000 in pledges and donations—some of that money is going directly to those affected—I think again says a lot about the group.

I would like to say to the Afghan community that our thoughts and prayers are with those families touched by this landslide event. I want to commend the young men involved in this OneVisionAid project—Mohammad Ali Sharifi, Munir Lodin, Jamshed Akbar and Treasurer Nadeem Azimmi—for their work. These young men are bringing the community together for the common good. They should be commended and lauded for their efforts.