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Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Page: 6806


Senator CAROL BROWN (7:16 PM) —For most, mention of my home state of Tasmania invokes a sense of rolling hills, a rugged coastline and pristine water. Indeed, Tasmania is renowned most for its landscape, its beautiful physical features and its wonderful produce. However, our island also harbours another wonderful yet less acclaimed asset—its people. There are many social benefits to be gained from living and working in such a diverse and welcoming place. One such benefit is the way in which it invites and encourages multiplicity. Indeed, Tasmania is a truly multicultural society. One only has to venture down to one of Tasmania’s premier tourist attractions, Salamanca Market, on a crisp Saturday morning to experience firsthand the alluring cultural diversity that has come to define our island state. Indeed, the sights, the sounds and the smells that create the atmosphere for which Salamanca Market is most famous are, in fact, a wonderful representation of what can be achieved by the harmonious amalgamation of different cultures.

I do not want to spoil the experience for those of you that have not yet been—and why haven’t you?—but, just to give you a taste, the market regularly features a vibrant mix of locally produced Asian, Middle Eastern, German and Dutch food, including the famous bratwurst sausages and, of course, the Dutch Oliebollen, to which an entire cultural festival is dedicated in the Franklin electorate each year. The market also regularly features the sounds of the Latin American band Arauna Libre—or ‘Freedom to the Arauncians’—comprising a group of Chilean refugees who fled the Pinochet regime and sought sanctuary in Tasmania. The band formed in 1987 and has performed live at the market every Saturday since.

Indeed, the experience of the Salamanca Market provides the perfect illustration of the role multiculturalism has come to play in not only enriching Tasmania’s fluid social fabric but also defining it. According to the 2006 census, there are 170 different countries represented in Tasmania, 155 of which are non-English-speaking. Further, there are about 150 languages spoken among the 80 or so different migrant groups in Tasmania. As is the case with most other states in Australia, Tasmania’s largest migrant communities originate from Italy, Greece, the UK and Germany. However, an ever-increasing number come from a more diverse range of backgrounds. A growing number of humanitarian entrants have come from the African continent, including from the Congo, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, and have further added to the unique cultural mix in Tasmania.

Tasmania has, in the past, also provided temporary accommodation for persons displaced by war. In 1999, during the height of the Bosnian-Serbian conflict, the Tasmanian community opened its arms to 500 Kosovars that had been displaced during the conflict. The state offered them a temporary safe haven in accommodation at the Tasmanian Haven Centre at Brighton. This proved a rich and rewarding experience for the Tasmanian community, with many lifelong friendships made. The same kinds of friendships are also being established between the Tasmanian community and the warm and friendly African migrant community.

A recent success story attributable to this and the ever-growing vibrant Ethiopian migrant community in Tasmania is that of Axum Ethiopian Restaurant. The restaurant, which opened in Liverpool Street in Hobart in May this year, was run, with the assistance of a Tasmanian business, by members of the Ethiopian community. These were mainly women, most of whom spoke little English and had limited employment options. However, their lease ran out a few months ago, which left those involved with the project in need of new premises. With the assistance of a fellow business owner, who offered to co-locate with the restaurant and assist in running it, Axum reopened just recently in a new premises right in the middle of Hobart’s CBD. Testament to the role such communities play in enriching the social fabric in Tasmania, the reopening of the restaurant has seen a number of Ethiopian refugees and migrants go from being unemployed to being CBD business managers. It has offered many other members of the vibrant community, including children, the opportunity to engage with the wider community and develop their language skills by working front of house. Axum’s story is just one of the many positive projects taking place in the state aimed at supporting refugees and migrants and fostering greater cultural diversity and understanding. It is also illustrative of the reciprocal benefits to be had by migrants and refugees themselves, as well as by the wider community in assisting in the process of relocation.

Another wonderful story of the contribution migrants have made to enriching and strengthening the Tasmanian community is that of Mr Alojzy—Alex—Dziendziel. I recently joined members of the Polish Senior Citizens Club to celebrate the International Day of Older Persons, at which I took the opportunity to present Alex with a Recognition Award in acknowledgement of his longstanding contribution to the Polish and wider Glenorchy communities. Since arriving in Australia, Alex’s commitment to the Tasmanian community has been outstanding. He is the founding member of the Polish Senior Citizens Club and has been president of the club for the past 14 years. Over a number of years he has also been actively involved in a number of other community based organisations, including the Glenorchy Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee, the Red Cross and the RSL. Alex has been contributing to his local community for over 50 years and is representative of the wonderful and lasting contribution that the migrant community make to building a stronger and socially diverse society.

The International Wall of Friendship is a Tasmanian project which celebrates this contribution. The idea for the wall was first conceived by the noted Tasmanian historian Mr Basil Rait MBE. The project, which was officially opened in 1992, is believed to be the first project of its kind in the world. The wall was conceived as a lasting memorial to reflect the bonds of friendship of the various groups of people from many nations who have made Tasmania their home and represents their contribution and commitment to the progress and wellbeing of the state. The wall features plaques donated by various multicultural groups living in Tasmania. Each plaque is inscribed with the same message in the national language of the contributing group. The wall now features over 50 plaques, some notably reflecting the distinctive historical connections with their countries of origin. For example, the material used to make the plaque from Greece came from the same quarry which supplied the stones to build the Parthenon and, most impressively, the Dutch plaque features the original bricks used to build Abel Tasman’s cottage.

I also recently had the great pleasure of attending the 10th annual Filipino Community Council of Australia national conference, which was held in Hobart, along with the member for Denison, Mr Duncan Kerr, and Senator Catryna Bilyk. The theme of the 10th Filipino National Conference was building capacity, connections and community strength, and I was indeed encouraged by the determination and effort of those represented at the conference in contributing to the future prosperity of Filipinos in Australia, as demonstrated by the discussions which took place at the various workshops and forums held over the two days. The 2006 census estimated the rate of Australian citizenship for the Philippines-born in Australia to be 92.1 per cent. This figure demonstrates the community’s commitment to also contributing to the future prosperity of all Australians. Indeed, the Filipino community represents one of the more significant and active migrant groups in Tasmania.

According to the 2006 census, 1,293 people residing in Tasmania declared themselves to be of Filipino ancestry, and this number continues to grow. As such, the contribution the Filipino community makes in Tasmania also continues to grow, especially through the auspices of the Filipino Communities Council of Tasmania, which was responsible for organising the national conference in Hobart this year. The organisation acts as an umbrella organisation for around six Filipino groups around the state. The council, which has only been established for a little over five years, brings together Filipinos from all around the state, holding quarterly meetings and providing links to crucial support networks for Filipino migrants. The council also holds an annual Filipino cultural festival to showcase the best of Filipino food, dance and culture. Through the Filipino Women’s Support Group, the council also provides essential assistance and ongoing support for female Filipino migrants when they first arrive in Tasmania. I wish to thank Florence Talbo Parker, the president of the Tasmanian council, and her committee for hosting such a great conference. I also wish to congratulate Florence, who, during the course of the conference, was elected as the national president for the coming year.

These reflections of the migrant experience in Tasmania highlight the fact that the Tasmanian story is largely founded on the various experiences of human migration to the island. Tasmania, after all, is largely a state of migrants. Indeed, from our rich traditional Aboriginal heritage to our British convict history and more recently our growing humanitarian refugee population, the Tasmanian community is not unlike the bustling stalls at Salamanca market and represents a diverse yet harmonious mix of old and new, of native and imported cultures, of innovation and tradition. Like the alluring appeal of the Salamanca market, it is this mixture that creates the appeal.

It was recently amidst all the colour and flair of the Filipino gala night that I came to reflect on what a wonderful, enriching and vibrant society we Australians are lucky enough to live in. Indeed, the Australian government is committed to providing leadership and support to ensure that Australia remains a cohesive, multicultural society. As my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Mr Laurie Ferguson, said in Sydney earlier this year:

Living in a multicultural country is about recognising, accommodating and celebrating differences of culture, ethnicity, language and faith within an overall sense of shared identity and purpose.

Indeed, in Tasmania it is arguably our diverse physical setting that accommodates and encourages cultural harmony, social fluidity and an appreciation of all that is particular and unique. We embrace the broadening of our horizons and benefit from the multiplicity of human experience. As the Tasmanian example demonstrates, there is much to be learned and much to be gained from the bringing together of a diverse range of cultures and experiences. Indeed, it is the combination of this diverse range of cultures and experiences that enlivens and enriches the island and makes it such a fantastic place to live and work.