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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Page: 434

Ms OWENS (9:47 AM) —I rise today to wish all Australians who are celebrating the lunar new year at this time of year all the best for the coming Year of the Rat. This year, when we can expect new beginnings and sweeping changes, some of which we have already seen in the last two days in this place, may I wish them and their families health, wealth and prosperity. I have to say, just to get it into the Hansard: Kung Hei Fat Choy. The lunar new year is, of course, part of our calendar now, but as recently as a generation ago traditional celebrations by Australians of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian backgrounds must have seemed strange and exotic.

On Saturday in Parramatta we celebrated in Prince Alfred Park, where people of Chinese background, now Australian but coming from China, Singapore and Malaysia, joined together with the broader community to celebrate the coming Year of the Rat. The Chinese New Year has been celebrated in Australia since the 1850s, when early Chinese settlers came during the gold rush. Our Chinese community is one of the oldest and strongest communities in modern Australia. As early as 1861, the colonial census showed that China-born residents accounted for 3.4 per cent of the population, the second largest immigrant group after the British—and they still retain that position today. In my electorate of Parramatta, surrounding Prince Alfred Park, they account for between eight and 10 per cent of the population. They are the largest group after the English and are a vital part of the economic and social life of the region.

In Parramatta we lay claim to some of the earliest history of Chinese settlement in Australia. We do not claim the first Chinese person to have arrived in Australia in 1803. Clearly a person of poor judgement, he did not move to Parramatta! His name was Ahuto and he was a carpenter. But the second one, Mak Sai Ying, came as a free settler in 1818. He settled in very quickly and opened the first pub in Parramatta in 1829. So in the history of Parramatta, Mak Sai Ying, our second Chinese settler and our first one in Parramatta, is well and truly woven in to the culture of our region. Had he been wearing a blue and yellow football jersey at the time we could well and truly give him Australian honours!

More recently in Parramatta we celebrated with the Vietnamese Tet and the Korean Seollal—our Vietnamese and Korean communities are great, strong and growing communities—and we will celebrate at Warwick Farm with the Vietnamese Tet on Saturday. For everybody who celebrates the Year of the Rat this year, I wish them a happy, healthy and prosperous new year and give fair warning that next year lunar new year falls on 26 January. In my electorate we will have the lunar new year, the Republic Day of India and Australia Day on 26 January. There will be one hell of a party in Parramatta next year. I suggest you all come along!