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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 1039


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services) (6:40 PM) —On a day when we have heard the reports of devastation and deaths in Christchurch, I join in this condolence motion for those affected by the recent natural disasters in Australia. I join with the many members on both sides of this House who recognise the suffering of the families and individuals affected and the massive effort by Australians to help, whether as neighbours or local volunteers or as part of organisations that help out in crises.

However, I want to turn to a different facet of what has occurred. Whether you have seen two Filipino women during the bushfires in Victoria with older Anglo-Saxon Australians; the many Italian names that come across our screens who are local government leaders in Northern Queensland; or farmers with German and Austrian names, it all certainly drives home again the diversity of this country and the nation-building that has occurred through the waves of migration, particularly since the Second World War. At a time when we have had some divisive comments about minorities in this country, I want to talk about some of the events hosted by minority groups in Australia that either my colleagues or I have attended over the last month.

I want to talk about Probashi Inc. Probashi is an organisation that was founded by a group of young Australian women—predominantly former students of Macquarie Fields High School, all of them professionals and of Bangladeshi Muslim extraction—to help the victims of acid attacks in Bangladesh. Since then they have branched out. I was pleased to be in attendance at an event in my electorate where they raised $15,000 for the Queensland flood victims, supported by a number of companies—Lenard Charles Menswear, ABS & Co. Pty Ltd and Bengal Grocery Pty Ltd.

My electorate has the largest concentration of Bangladeshis in the country, so many of the events and efforts by Australians that I will talk about are in that community. So I went to Probashi’s event and, a few weeks later, I also had the privilege of attending an event run by the Bangladesh Islamic Centre in Minto—on a swelteringly hot day, one of the worst days we had during that heatwave in Sydney. I was there with very enthusiastic Liberal and Labor state candidates at an event to, again, raise money for the Queensland flood victims.

Similarly, the Pakistan Association of Australia, with the consul in attendance, held a function at the Himalaya restaurant in Granville. There would have been fewer than 100 people there, but that group also raised $15,000, mainly through the sale of cricket memorabilia. Once again, they are Muslim Australians.

I also had the benefit of attending an event of the Campbelltown Bangla School—Bangla is the language of West Bengal and Bangladesh—a few weeks ago at the Grange Public School in Minto where they conduct weekend classes in their language. They had a breakfast. It is a very small language school because there are a number of them in different suburbs of Sydney, so there were not a large number of people, but they still raised $1,600.

My colleagues the members for Reid and Blaxland attended an event at the Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, which from its title people would understand is predominantly Turkish, to accept a cheque on behalf of the Queensland flood appeal, for which the mosque raised $12,000. Once again, it shows Australian Muslims joining other Australians in helping their fellow countrymen in this time of crisis.

Then there is the Australian Chinese Charity Foundation. I was there with the Governor of New South Wales—and it is indicative of her role in our state that she was at that event—with close friends of the member for Berowra, Hudson Chen and others. They raised $20,000 to $30,000 the other week and have now reached a figure of $250,000 from Sydney’s Chinese community. The weekend before last, I had the benefit of attending in my former electorate of Reid a combined effort by Sri Om—an association for the elderly that aims to establish nursing home care for the Indian community, which is an increasing need, despite our view that they are predominantly a very young skilled migration intake—in conjunction with the Chinese New Year, instigated by the former Mayor of Auburn, Councillor Lee Lam. The event was in a park in north Auburn. Sri Om had originally intended to have their own event. But, in a very good indication for this country, they joined together with the Chinese community to raise money at an event during the Chinese New Year to go towards this massive Australian endeavour.

Then there was the Kapitbahayan Cooperative, the leading housing cooperative in the Filipino community in New South Wales. I went the other week to an opening of some new units out in Leumeah. As well as opening the new venues and welcoming the neighbours to come and have a look at what they do, they used that event to raise money for the Queensland flood victims. I also want to cite a Bangladeshi effort. The Bangladesh Welfare Society Campbelltown, led by Iqbal Farrukh, came to my office to present a cheque towards the appeal. These are predominantly Muslim groups. But I was at a Hindu Puja the other week in the Bangladeshi community—Hindus are a minority in Bangladesh—and in the middle of their main religious event of the year they took time out to make a donation towards this appeal.

I talked about the Filipino community earlier. My colleague the member for Chifley attended a very broad Filipino event in what is basically the capital of Filipinos in this country, the Blacktown municipality, where a very significant effort was made towards our national needs in regard to funding for flood affected people to help alleviate the suffering that they have experienced.

I want to mention the efforts of Gloria Gallegan, a personal friend and an acknowledged painter. She donated an effort on the Murrumbidgee River to the crisis. She and her husband, Bob Gallegan, a former secretary of the Painters and Dockers Union New South Wales, raised significant amounts of money on a local basis in Guildford towards this appeal.

In conclusion, what I hope that I have shown in this contribution is that despite the divisive efforts of some people this country is fundamentally built on diversity. In these times of suffering when people need assistance, people bind together regardless of their religion, understanding that we are all part of this nation. This kind of attitude and effort is particularly driven in times of crisis such as this.