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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9264

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (13:21): I too would like to acknowledge the presence of Serbian Ambassador Neda Maletic, who has been serving Serbia extremely well and has been informing the community here as well, including members of parliament. I also welcome the opportunity to be able to speak on this very important motion today, even though I only have a few minutes and there is much more that I could say. I would like to congratulate the member for Fowler for bringing this motion to this House. It helps us focus on the resilience of the Serbian people—in Serbia, their forefathers, those around the world and especially those in communities in our electorates all around Australia. I am sure that every member of parliament here has a Serbian community. I certainly have quite a few members of the Serbian community, as well as two Serbian Orthodox churches, in my electorate.

Many people around Australia are somewhat aware of the very deep difficulties experienced in the former Yugoslavia in the later years of the 20th century. Fewer people, though, would fully appreciate what happened in those years. Much of what people may think when they think of that time may have been devised and processed through the US government's media machine under the then Clinton administration. Our knowledge of those times and our understanding of Serbia and its people more generally can only improve and become deeper from a renewed focus with an open mind. Since those tragic days, Serbia has become an important part of Europe and has ensured that they have a dynamic democracy, are involved in all international scales of international talks on international issues and are part of the greater international community.

If we look at the issues of Serbia, they go back to the early 19th century, to the days of the Ottoman Turk occupation of their land and then that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, through to the devastation of World War I and World War II. Serbian people suffered greatly during those wars. Of course, there were the great allies of Australia and the Allied forces. We hear many heroic stories of the partisans and those who continued to fight the Nazi oppression, even after the Nazi occupation. There are many heroic stories about where they fought side by side with many members of the Allied forces. Subsequently, there was the takeover by the communists, whose Baltic peoples only started to emerge through the horrors of the 1990s.

I note that in 2000, after the decade of political troubles that so affected the former Yugoslavia, Serbia's economy improved and was on the way up. Since that time, in possibly the first decade of peace and democracy Serbians have enjoyed for many years—I go back to the Ottoman Empire and onwards—people are now confronted by the worst global financial crisis, which has hit all nations, especially European nations.

The 21st century has been a new dawn for the Serbian people, a new century in which they have had an opportunity to rebuild their economy—rebuild their nation and succeed in building a vibrant democracy, which will continue for many years. Much work has been done and much work continues to be done. They have a market economy, which has largely been rolled out and nurtured. Renewed membership of the International Monetary Fund in 2000 was followed by rejoining the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Trade liberalisation, enterprise restructuring and privatisation was followed by the signing of the stabilisation and association agreement with Brussels in 2008 and the full implementation of the international trade agreement with the EU in 2010. That set the path toward possible EU membership in the months or years ahead after an economic contraction due to the GFC that many countries are experiencing. Serbia experienced growth of 1.7 per cent in 2010 and 3.1 per cent in 2011. Serbia is doing much better than some of its neighbouring countries in the region but there is still a long, hard road ahead as we all battle through this economic crisis that has hit the world.

As I said from the outset, Serbs are resilient. I know this to be true from the communities in my electorate. We have over 100,000 people of Serbian background who have made Australia their home. Serbian migrants have brought with them a culture which is rich and dynamic. Historically, Serbia is a literary and artistic nation that has produced many great authors, poets and artists. Of note was Ivo Andric, the 1961 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In my own electorate I have many Serbian migrants who are now fully fledged members of the Australian community. The Serbian community is serviced by the Serbian Orthodox Parish Community of Sveti Sava located in Mary Street, Hindmarsh, serviced by the Very Reverend Father Zoran Ivanic, who does a great job, and the Serbian Orthodox Church of Sveti Sava of Woodville Park. (Time expired)