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Tuesday, 27 November 2018
Page: 11720


Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (16:47): I am the member for Melbourne but I was born in South Australia and then grew up and did my high school and university in Western Australia. I love lots of things about Perth and Fremantle, but to a young man in the 1990s Perth wasn't big enough and I spent quite a few days and weeks in Melbourne. As soon as I finished my degree, I moved to Melbourne and I have stayed in Melbourne ever since, knowing that it is the place for me. One of the moments very early on when I knew Melbourne was the right city for me was one Friday evening and I was able to go out and see a night game at the MCG and then go out after that and find that there was not only a paperback bookshop open but a coffee shop open as well. For somebody who had spent time in Perth in the 1990s, finding a sporting event, a bookshop and a coffee shop all open on a Friday night in the middle of the city was really quite something to behold. That coffee shop was Pellegrini's.

I was in Pellegrini's on that Friday evening with my dad. He remarked to me that this is what Melbourne was all about. Many of us have spent time making many visits to that place since. To say it holds a special place in the hearts of Melburnians doesn't go anywhere far enough in conveying the significance of this cultural institution. A lot has been said about it. When many of us heard the news that, in the attack that took place, Sisto Malaspina had lost his life, it struck pretty deeply for many people in Melbourne. I also remember where I was on the day that it happened. I was at a public housing estate. We all looked up, because we could see several helicopters flying over the city, within a stone's throw from where we were all gathering to have some soft drinks. We knew something had happened.

As it became apparent what had happened and the news went out to avoid that part of Bourke Street, it sunk in that potentially one of the worst events had hit home in a way that everybody had feared. We saw tragedy on the streets of Melbourne that day, but we also saw the best in people. We saw passers-by selflessly putting themselves in harm's way without knowing what was going on. We saw first responders doing it. First responders are trained to do it, which doesn't make the danger they put themselves in any less. Passers-by, without knowing what was happening, jumping in to try to stop further attacks is something that we would all like to think we would do, but how many of us would actually do it? To see people prepared to jump in to save someone they didn't know and try to stop further attacks from, again, someone they didn't know, an event unfolding in real time around them, speaks volumes about the human spirit. Amongst that tragedy we saw the best of Melbourne and the best of people.

In the following weeks since then I must say, as the member representing the area where that attack which has touched so many people took place, that it makes me feel so proud to know it has not divided us. Despite the calls from some to say that this issue should be treated politically and that a whole group of people should now be tarred with a particular brush because of the actions of one unwell individual, people came together and did not fall for it. That speaks volumes and makes me immensely proud to be the member for that area. One of the first phone calls that I made and conversations that I had immediately afterwards was with representatives of our local Somali community. They told me that they had already been out to the scene in the days afterwards to pay their respects, to talk with members of the community and to send the message that they too were grieving.

To know that thus far within Melbourne there haven't been the kinds of unjustified and unfair reprisals that we had feared against particular sections of the community is also something that makes me immensely proud. One of the things that I'm always reminded of when these attacks happen is that these attacks are indiscriminate; they're not targeting particular people on the basis of their particular religion. As my local Muslim community reminds me, it is the case that many more Muslims than members of other religions die from these kinds of terror attacks around the world. It is often the case that members of my community in Melbourne have come here because they have fled terror. People from Somalia fled al-Shabaab and the kind of terrorism that has taken hold there and have come here to seek a better life.

I stand not only with everyone who was suffering because they were close to Mr Malaspina or to someone who was injured but also with all those members of the community who felt perhaps fearful afterwards that they too were going to be targeted in different ways. I hope that members of those various Muslim and African Australian communities that we have in Melbourne, who make it the wonderful place that it is, have seen that in fact in the aftermath the majority of the population is with them. I think the overwhelming majority of people in Melbourne and indeed right around the country stand with them too and understand that the actions of one individual do not represent the actions of a whole group of people.

I went a little while ago with the state member for Melbourne, Ellen Sandell, to pay our respects and see the long line of flowers that was passing down the lane between Pellegrini's and the bookshop. To read through the condolences book inside Pellegrini's gives you a glimpse into the personal lives of so many people. It was great to hear the stories from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition about dates, successful and not so successful for them, at Pellegrini's. I think everyone has a story like that, which is why this has touched us so much.

If there's one thing that comes out of this, it's that we must continue to strive to make sure that Melbourne is a place where everyone has a place. The best way of ensuring that our community remains safe and that we do not experience these kinds of attacks in the future is to make sure that everyone understands that Melbourne is a place where they belong and that Australia is a place where they belong. If we want to make Australia safer, we will not divide our communities. If we want to make Australia safer, we will look to those communities where there are many people currently doing it tough, where unemployment and underemployment are going through the roof, and we as parliamentarians will make efforts to ensure that people are engaged, to ensure that we do not create in Australia classes of people who feel that they are being left behind, because it is only when people don't feel that they're included, don't feel part of the project that we are embarking on as a country, that they feel in a position where they could think about harming us. But, when people feel like they are part of us, like they are working together to make sure they have a good life—and we also take it upon ourselves to ensure that everyone in this country has a good life and feels that they're included—then the risks of these kinds of attacks diminish and diminish massively. So, if anything comes out of this, I hope it is that we continue to fan the flames of the best of us. Vale, Sisto Malaspina, and thank you once again to everyone who stepped in and put themselves in harm's way to help ensure safety on that day.