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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 539


Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (13:36): Friday, 21 February was International Mother Language Day, an international day commemorated by UNESCO in 1999 and selected no doubt because of the history of 21 February in the fight to speak the mother language by the people of Bangladesh. On 21 February 1952 several Bengalis lost their lives in a fight to retain Bangla as their state language. Since then, in Bangladesh they have been commemorating the national Language Movement Day. In 1999 that day became a an international day, as I said. In my electorate of Parramatta it is a day that is recognised every year by my local Bengali community as they work hard to show the rest of the community the importance of that mother language. And it is language, of course, that holds the philosophies and character of our cultural backgrounds.

At Ashfield Park on Sunday, the Bengali community in my electorate held their 14th Mother Language Day. They also held a blood donation drive, along with the Red Cross, and some 30 donors gave blood on that day. I thank Avijit Barua and the Ekushe Academy—'ekushe' is a word that literally means 21—for the work they have done in bringing this incredibly important international day to the attention of the broader community and for the recognition of its importance to all of us.