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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14771


Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (17:25): A little over two weeks ago the world was completely shocked and heartbroken at the horror that we saw unfold in Christchurch, New Zealand. We express our deep sympathy to the victims—those that were wounded and may still be in hospital, the friends and family of those lost—and to the people of New Zealand more generally, and we share in their sorrow.

As I'm sure others have said, it was quite shocking for it to happen in Christchurch, in New Zealand, because I think many of us think about New Zealand as quite a peace-loving place, and it made this horror really shocking for people. It would be shocking anywhere, but, when it happened in New Zealand, I know that in our community in Darwin it really hit home. The Islamic Council of Northern Territory chairman, Sadaruddin Chowdhury, said recently that the community was very shaken, and told of how he'd lived in Darwin for more than 20 years and had always felt very safe. He went on to talk about how Darwin was very multicultural, with Muslim communities blending in and being welcomed. He felt that that was very special and unique, having around 3,000 Muslims from around 28 countries living in Darwin. He believed they'd never felt unsafe in Darwin and had never had any major event or incident in Darwin; however, he also quite rightly pointed out that people were feeling very nervous because he was sure that those Islamic communities in Christchurch probably felt exactly the same, up until the shooting started.

It hit our community in the Top End quite hard, so on the Friday I went to the mosque and spent some time with the community. They were very shaken, but I was there to do two things: to pass on everyone's solidarity with them and, also, to talk. Imam Daud allowed me to address the community, and I'm thankful for that because I was able to pass on to the community during their Friday prayers that, while this was an horrific act, the community should be assured of the support of our greater community and our country for what they were feeling and what they were going through, and that we would be showing leadership in speaking out against terrorism as well as wrapping our arms around our brothers and sisters.

At the Friday prayers at the mosque in Wanguri, there were already cards and flowers. One such card said, 'We are sorry for your loss and sorry that this act of terrorism has been brought upon innocent people in your community.' On the following day, I was able to join in a commitment that I already had organised. It was an event that had been organised in advance by the Muslim Student Society. It was around education and Islam and had been organised at CDU, Charles Darwin University. They decided, quite rightly, to go ahead with the event. They had Imam Konda, who's actually based in Canberra, come up and talk to the students. That event, on the Saturday following the shootings, was well attended, including by the Deputy Chief Minister, Nicole Manison, and the Administrator of the Northern Territory, and it served as another opportunity for us as a community to spend time together. It was particularly important for these young students, who have come from all different countries, to know that, in Darwin, they have come to a peaceful place. We encouraged them to engage fully with everyone in our community, as they'd be respected.

Imam Konda, who studied at CDU himself before he moved to Canberra and became the imam there, spoke very well and passionately, calling out the evil acts and calling on everyone present to reject ignorance and hate and to push for unity. I think it's worth quoting some of what Imam Konda said:

This person did not realise that he caused some children to go back home from their school, and they will have no more father or mother.

He called on the audience to embrace peace and the spirit of equality and said that what happened will remain emotionally scarred in our hearts. I thought that was worth mentioning because the reality of the act is that some kids—and we know that children were also killed—went home and found they were orphans, because their parents had been slain.

So that was the event at CDU, and well done to the organisers. The following evening, Sunday evening, hundreds of Territorians from all faiths and walks of life gathered at the community centre beside the mosque to stand in solidarity with the community. I want to thank Feroz Ibrahim for his leadership within the community. I want to acknowledge the Islamic Council of the Northern Territory; the Islamic Society of Darwin; the Islamic Society of Palmerston; the students at Charles Darwin University; the Darwin imam, Imam Daud; Reverend Dr Helen Richmond and her team from the Casuarina Uniting Church; Bishop Charles Gauci; and the Bishop Emeritus of Darwin, Bishop Hurley. Bishop Hurley has now retired as Catholic bishop for the diocese but he spoke at this gathering on the Sunday evening to pass on respect and solidarity with the community. I also acknowledge Reverend Patricia Williams and Reverend Father Ian McDonald from the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral. Also there was a Maori community brother, Mr Waaka Aperahama, from the Ratana Church. It was quite powerful to see someone who had previously lived in New Zealand come to the mosque and express his church's solidarity. And I've already mentioned the President of the Australian Makassan College, Feroz Ibrahim.

I think Charlie King was the final speaker that night. Charlie King is a bit of a legend in the Northern Territory. He's a sports broadcaster with the ABC and he does a lot in the community to reduce family violence—any type of violence. He was quite emotional; it hit home in particular because his wife is a New Zealander. I just want to mention a bit of what Charlie said: 'The events in Christchurch left us shaken, but awakened to the need to stand strong alongside Prime Minister Ardern, the New Zealand people and the community in condemning violence. Her strong leadership has hardened our resolve in saying, "No more," to all forms of violence, from our schoolyards to our sporting fields, in our homes and in our streets, and, yes, in our places of worship. We want our voices to be heard, calling for no more hate speech and no more violence.'

There is no place for racism or hate in the Northern Territory. We are proudly one of the most diverse places in our country. We are enriched by all in our country. I know that our community stands in solidarity with everyone, to respect everyone's human rights so that they can live in peace as everyone ought to be able to do.