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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3488

Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (12:47): On Tuesday, together with my colleague and co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of Multiculturalism, the member for McMillan, I was pleased to host the launch of the international charity Global Gardens of Peace here in Parliament House. The charity was established by Moira Kelly AO with the vision to create children's gardens in those communities around the world that have experienced incredible hardship as a result of war or natural disaster.

I was particularly pleased to be hosting this function, as it expanded on the theme of another function which I hosted on Monday as the co-convenor of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine, where we acknowledged the UN International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. It was perhaps coincidence that these two functions were interrelated, as the Global Gardens of Peace event centred on the unveiling of the charity's first garden, and this garden will be in Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip.

I would like to thank international humanitarian Moira Kelly, and Beatrice Imbert, who is the chair of the Global Gardens of Peace. I would like to thank Julie Ebbott and the project coordinator, Philip Sacca, and everyone else involved in the charity not only for their contribution in making the event possible but also for their contribution in realising the very admirable vision and very, very humane dream that Moira and her team have.

The Global Gardens of Peace charity commenced in 2013, but the origins of this charity go back to 2004, when Moira Kelly visited Gaza, in Palestine, on a humanitarian trip. She is known for scouring the world for children who need urgent and immediate medical attention and cannot get it in their own home countries. Moira brings them to Australia to receive life-saving surgery and treatment. She is revered in Australia for that purpose and also internationally.

She was in Gaza. She despaired at the lack of green space and safe play space that was available to children. As a result, typical of Moira Kelly, she became determined to act. She very boldly expressed her desire to create a place for children and their families to the Palestinian government. In 2007 she was met by a delegation from Palestine who came to Australia to see Moira and to hand her an envelope in which she was given a parcel of land and the title for that land in order to realise her aspiration of a garden for children.

So in 2013 a Global Gardens of Peace delegation visited the region to secure this 20,000 square metre site in Khan Younis, which, as I said, is a municipality of Gaza City, in order to create Moira's garden. This project is the inaugural project of Moira's long-term vision. Khan Younis will, within the next five years, house a population of 500,000 people. The Global Gardens of Peace project will become the anchor project to see the development of that community.

The Australian team of passionate volunteers is working on facilitating the growth of this community. The garden, designed by Andrew Laidlaw, is modelled on the children's garden at the botanical gardens in Melbourne. It will be a natural play space for children and a place for families to come together in a safe and natural environment—something we are all very familiar with in Australia and take for granted, but not so the case in places such as Palestine and in particular in Gaza.

Moira Kelly is adamant that this project will occur and that it will be a gift from the Australian people to the people of Palestine. Although her initiative has been met with mixed reactions, as one could imagine, she believes that no matter what your political affiliations are you have to 'do what is right by the children'—and that is exactly what she intends to do. I want to praise Moira Kelly and thank her for her enduring commitment and for her humanity to children, particularly those who have become victims of war, of political squabbling, of poverty and of natural disasters.

Finally, from my own electorate I would like to table a petition. I inform the chamber that this petition was considered at a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Petitions and certified as being in accordance with standing orders. The petition calls on the government to reconsider the decision to limit access to pensions to six weeks while overseas and to extend it to a period have three months as was originally the case. This was a decision taken by the former Labor government. My petitioner, Mrs Ergul Ozturk, undertook to take 633 signatures asking for a return to the original three-month period.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of the undersigned residents of Australia draws the attention of the House to an issue affecting the portability of aged pensions. We feel we have spent our entire working lives in Australia and should be permitted to receive our pensions in manner that does not restrict our freedom to move.

We feel the Government should reconsider the decision to limit access to the pension for 6 weeks while overseas, and extend it to a period of three months, as it was originally.

We therefore ask the House to request the Government to:

1. Reassess the criteria of awarding aged care and disability pensions for Australians who wish to visit families overseas for a period longer than six weeks.

from 633 citizens

Petition received.