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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7526


Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (19:44): Today I rise to celebrate and mark the launch of National Day of Unity, a day that brings together political leaders, community leaders and faith leaders to stand for a modern, inclusive Australia. Here in Parliament House we celebrated this National Day of Unity

More than 50 faiths attended, representing Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Baha'i and other traditions, all of whom joined with many of my colleagues in a very uplifting launch that highlighted the desire for all Australians to live in peace and safety. It was truly about celebrating diversity, encouraging mutual respect and fostering that positive relationship between people of all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds. I want to thank Welcome to Australia and the Lebanese Muslim Association for bringing us together today and for being here in Parliament House with so many members of our multicultural community from various religious faiths.

The National Day of Unity seeks to build and strengthen the ties between all Australians regardless of heritage, faith or ethnicity. The words of Christian pastor Brad Chilcott, founder of Welcome to Australia, perfectly summarise the motivation behind today. He said:

There are countless things that could divide us. But we are united by a vision of an Australia where people are afforded equal respect and dignity. We are united in our belief that prejudice and hatred damage all Australians and believe that unity, empathy, and welcome are the foundations of a better future.

Celebrating diversity and the strength it brings to our nation only makes us a stronger nation. Our nation has a rich history of multiculturalism. For decades now we have welcomed immigrants into our community and been enriched by the culture that they bring.

As someone who stands here in the Senate as the daughter of a migrant father and an Australian-born mother, I feel that it is incredibly vital that we continue to ensure that the rich tapestry that makes Australia what it is—from our first peoples to our migrants who continue to come here and make Australia home—and the harmony that we celebrate in our diversity are strengthened. If we reflect on the tragedy that has occurred in the past week, now more than ever is the time to build strong, resilient communities—and that is exactly what this Day of National Unity was all about. It was about adding dignity, respect and unity to our national conversation. Part of that includes highlighting the Walk Together event that will take place on 31 October. In over 25 cities and regional centres in Australia you will be able to participate by visiting a mosque or by being part of a local Walk Together group where you can celebrate the diversity that makes Australia a special, strong and resilient multicultural community.

We have so much to share with each other. It is not about losing your own cultural identity; it is about sharing it with one another and enriching Australia in the process. At this point in time, when some of that unity, resilience and harmony is potentially being threatened—like what we saw last weekend in Bendigo—it is more important than ever that we as a nation show that we are very strong and resilient in the face of such threats of bigotry and hatred speech that unfortunately do tend to occasionally find their way into the lexicon of our communities. There is no place in this country for hate speech. We have strong racial discrimination laws that deal with that. Nevertheless, we are a country of free speech, so hate speech is there sometimes. I stand for this National Day of Unity to say no to hate speech and yes to unity.