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Speech to the Love My Home, Love My Community, photography and painting arts show.



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Laurie Ferguson MP Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services

Love My Home, Love My Community, Photography and Painting Arts Show 15 August 2009

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land - the Wallumattagal Clan of the Darug Nation - and the continuing challenges faced by Australia's indigenous people.

Congratulations to all the performers and artists today.

This event is a celebration of Chinese settlement and its continuing contribution to Australia as a culture and as a country.

Some of the best artistic contributions come when artists reflect on their story, family history, and struggles for inclusion and belonging.

Chinese Australians have made a permanent and lasting impression on the Australian art scene, with their contribution spanning the history of migration - from the early years of the gold rush to the present day.

This year - 35 Chinese Australian artists donated their work to a gallery in China to support the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. I am told that over $100 000 has been raised.

The exhibition 'coming home' - is the largest Chinese Australian art exhibition ever to be held in China - and was organised by an organisation just down the road - the Sydney Olympic Park Authority..

This is an incredible act of generosity, which serves to highlight the spirit of the Chinese community.

It also highlights the calibre of art produced by first, second and third generation Chinese Australians.

Included among the 35 artists was William Yang - a third generation Chinese Australian who grew up on a tobacco plantation in Northern Queensland. Much of his work examines his Chinese family history and his mother's struggles for acceptance.

Also included was Lindy Lee - whose parents migrated in the 1940s at a time when the white Australia policy was still in place.

Lindy once said - 'we were proudly Chinese at home, but outside we had to conform to what white Australia wanted from its immigrants.' Art became a way to find herself.

Born in Shanghai in 1948 Shen Jiawei lived through the Cultural Revolution and Mao's China. He became one of China's most prominent artists before moving to Australia in 1989.

For the first two years he supported himself drawing portrait sketches for tourists at Darling Harbour. He has since become an Archibald finalist and winner of the Sir John Sulman Prize.

Shen Jiawei's donation for the Bushfire Appeal underscores the spirit and generosity of the Chinese community.

This success and community spirit expands across the Tasman. Last week I met with Pansy Wong - New Zealand's first Cabinet minister of Chinese ethnic origin.

Australia also marked this milestone only recently when Penny Wong became this Government's Minister for Climate Change and Water.

I was interested to learn of the similarities of experience between Chinese immigrants to Australia and New Zealand.

In her Maiden speech to the New Zealand Parliament Pansy Wong reflected on the early 20th century as a period of racism and intolerance.

She also spoke of the change in acceptance of Chinese at the close of the century and of their contribution to their new country. She spoke of her family's dedication to their new country and of their experiences.

'My mother demonstrated that language was not a barrier to commitment to her new home. She devised a system to cope with names and terms in Chinese. The Prime Minister became the Shepherd to reflect his leadership role and his farming background. Helen Clark is the lady in Red.

She went on to make the incisive remark: 'It is not generally appreciated how long it takes for immigrants to fully settle in. Ties of family, friendship, and business cannot be cut instantly. It is natural to look back for years to the former homeland. After all Britain is still being regarded as the motherland by many European immigrants.'

Love My Home, Love My Community is a great initiative. I believe one of the most effective ways in which people can share their culture is through artistic expression.

It is a valuable means of bridging cultures and providing shared understanding and meaning when there is no mutual spoken or written language.

Self-expression through the arts is also a demonstration of pride in our heritage.

For children and young people, art is a wonderful means of remaining connected to the culture of their ancestors.

Approximately 32 000 people of Chinese ancestry live in the Ryde and Parramatta area - or roughly 16 percent of the entire Chinese Australian community.

I wonder how many young and emerging artists from this area will come to prominence in the next few years.

I congratulate the Australian Chinese Cultural Education Activity Centre and your partners for organising this vibrant and positive celebration of your local community.

To everyone with Chinese heritage here today, I acknowledge how your culture has enriched Australia in many very special ways.

To the artists and photographers displaying your work today, I congratulate you for being so positively engaged in the cultural life of your community.

And I thank you, on behalf of everyone here, for the art works on display . They are an inspiration to us all.

They reflect this wonderful country, the Great Southern Land—and the important influence of Chinese culture.

Thank you and my best wishes to everyone here.