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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14801

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (11:32): On Saturday 5 December, I will be attending a community peace dinner hosted by the Leigh Memorial congregation of Parramatta Mission. This follows on from a Parramatta Mission peace service event held on 21 September, where some 16 different faiths were brought together to celebrate working towards peace and harmony. Faith groups included the Baha'i, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhist, Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Hindu, Islam, Jain, Jewish, Mandaean, Sikh, Sufi and Zoroastrian. Prayers for peace were held for each of the different faiths present, with some people praying in both English and their mother tongue—including a Muslim prayer in Arabic, a Buddhist prayer in Pali and a Hindu prayer in Sanskrit. We all prayed according to 16 different faiths and in 12 different languages. Seven cultural organisations attended and provided dance and entertainment, and 25 peace doves were released at the end of the ceremony.

This weekend's event promises to be just as diverse and interesting, and again brings together these groups in a celebration of peace. My congratulations go to Reverend Dr Manas Ghosh and all those involved in Parramatta Mission and the Leigh Memorial Church for organising these events, along with all the community groups that attended the last one and will come along on Saturday. It is a great thing to see events such as these bringing people together in the cause of peace.

On Sunday 15 November we saw, in Parramatta, the unveiling of a plaque honouring the Maltese Anzacs, who joined the Australian and New Zealand forces in World War I. It was raining that day so we unveiled the plaque in a scout hall next to the park where it will have its final home at the bi-centennial monument at Civic Park in Pendle Hill.

It was my pleasure to join the President of the Maltese RSL Sub Branch, Charles Mifsud, at this event. He worked tirelessly to ensure the service and sacrifice of our Maltese-Australian soldiers is not forgotten. Seven Maltese Australians died in the battlefields of Europe: Private Charles Bonavia, Gunner Francis Brown, Private Francis Bellia, Private Thomas Rizzo, Private Waldemar Beck, Private Francesco Bartolo and Private Andrew Camilleri. They died in battlefields in Turkey, Belgium and France, including at the Gallipoli landings and at the Battle of the Somme. There were 41 other Maltese Australians who engaged in combat in Gallipoli and the Western Front, and all of their names are engraved on the plaque that we will see installed in its permanent place early next year.

Their part in this combat was just a small part of the Maltese-Australian experience. While individual Maltese convicts and immigrants arrived in Australia from around 1810, the first mass migration of 70 labourers and nine stowaways arrived in 1883. The Maltese experience in Australia was not without its hardships. Australia, for much of its days immediately before and after Federation, had issues with discrimination, and quotas were applied to Maltese immigration from 1920. The sacrifices of these Maltese Australians, particularly in spite of the negative aspects of their Australian experience, are just a snapshot of their great contribution to Australian society.

The memorial plaque came from a $3½ thousand grant as part of the Anzac grants commemorating 100 years of Anzac. I absolutely congratulate the Maltese branch of the RSL for their extraordinary work in researching the contributions of these great Australians and producing a plaque that will remind us in perpetuity of their service.

Friday, 27 November marked the 74th anniversary of the sinking of the HMAS Parramatta, killing 136 on board and leaving just 24 survivors. To honour this ship, the second HMAS Parramatta and the others bearing its name are honoured each year in a ceremony held in Parramatta on a Sunday as close as possible to 27 November. This year's ceremony was organised by the Parramatta Memorial Subsection of the Naval Association of Australia. The service was officiated by Bruce Richens, the Honorary Secretary of the Parramatta Memorial Subsection of the Naval Association of Australia; Commander Simon Cannell, the most recent commander of the current HMAS Parramatta, who gave a moving oration; and the Sydney detachment of the Royal Australian Navy Band, who provided stirring music for the occasion.

We are particularly proud of the HMAS Parramattas—all four of them. The first one was the first fleet in the Australian Navy. They have all served our country well and it is a pleasure every year to join in commemorating their service down on the banks of the Parramatta River.