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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 6549


Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (16:40): I wish to inform the House of the growing and important contribution that the Mandaean community is making to Australia, especially in south-west Sydney. The Mandaeans are followers of John the Baptist and they are pacifists. They have a number of holy books, the most important of which is the Ginza. The Mandaean ancestors fled from the Jordan valley about 2,000 years ago and ultimately came to settle along the lower reaches of the Tigris, Euphrates and Karun rivers in what is now Iraq and Iran. The Mandaean community has been one of the oldest and smallest minority groups in Iraq for centuries.

Migration of that community began during Saddam Hussein's rule. In fact, in 2003 at the start of the Gulf War there were only an estimated 60,000 Mandaean in Iraq. But the migration of that group from Iraq accelerated greatly after the 2003 Gulf War and the subsequent occupation. As the security situation deteriorated in that country, more and more Mandaeans emigrated. The reasons were that many of the Mandaean community who had their trade as goldsmiths and followed a pacifistic religion that forbade them from carrying arms were targeted by criminal gangs and held up for ransoms. Further, they suffered at the hand of Islamic extremism. Thousands were forced to flee the country after they were given the choice of conversion or death. In fact, today it is estimated that around 90 per cent of the Mandaeans who were in Iraq in 2003 have either been killed or forced to flee the country, leaving a tiny community of just 5,000 left in Iraq. Today, the Mandaeans as a people and their 2,000-year-old culture are in grave danger of disappearing from the face of the earth.

However, a small but significant number of Mandaeans have migrated to Sweden and Australia—maybe just enough to save them and their ancient culture from destruction. In fact, today there are an estimated 5,000 Mandaeans living in Liverpool and a further 3,000 in Fairfield. Many of them migrated to Australia as refugees under the watch of the honourable member for Berowra, the father of the House and the former immigration minister under the Howard government. This community is truly helping to revitalise the Liverpool economy and the Liverpool CBD.

Liverpool is the fourth oldest city in Australia, after Sydney, Parramatta and Hobart. But it is a city that has been neglected for decades under Labor control. Now, under the newly elected Liberal Liverpool Council and Liberal Liverpool Mayor Ned Mannoun we are starting to see development happening and some green shoots in that economy. In fact, the Mandaean community are responsible for converting the old ramshackle Liverpool fire station in Terminus Street, a building that had been abandoned for many years and that was being used as a decrepit drug den, into a place of peace and learning. They did so with construction over a year, with 100 members of the local community using their own hands to rebuild it. It is a great asset for the local community. I am very proud that they welcomed the member for Cook there last week.

The other major contribution that the Mandaean community are making to Liverpool is through expertise in the gold and jewellery industries. In fact, the Liverpool CBD has the potential to become—and is starting to become—the jewellery capital of not only Australia but the entire Southern Hemisphere. We should be looking to model the Liverpool CBD on the diamond district of New York. In fact, there are parallels. The New York diamond district grew in importance after many Orthodox Jews fled from both the Netherlands and Belgium following Nazi Germany's occupation. They built up the diamond district in New York. So here we have a similar situation, where the Mandaeans were forced to flee Iraq from Saddam's tyranny and Islamic extremism. Hopefully, we can build up Liverpool to be the gold and jewellery capital of Australia.

Also in the Liverpool CBD we have many of the Indian community building businesses. Liverpool CBD is a place that has a great future as a business district for the small businesses of many people from our refugee and immigrant communities. (Time expired)