21 October 2019


I rise to speak in support of the member for Moreton's motion on this very important issue, the vilification of minority groups. I'm proud to represent the electorate of Werriwa for many reasons. Chief amongst them is its strong, diverse multicultural community. We recognise it, we celebrate it and we're stronger for it.

Australia is the most successful multicultural nation on earth. Our migration and settlement program is an exemplar and is looked to by other nations as world's best practice, and rightly so. But it needs to stay that way. Not a week goes by when I am not witness to the best of multicultural Australia in my electorate, either in my public capacity or my private capacity, whether at a cultural festival or citizenship ceremony or at one of the many shops, and in shopkeepers that are neighbours to my electorate office or in the diverse faces in childcare centres and schools in our community. A mark of multicultural Australia's success is that for the vast majority of us it is so unremarkable. It is important to ensure that it remains so and that people are safe in our community.

Werriwa is a proud community of many different cultures and many different backgrounds, and it is strong for exactly that reason. We understand and welcome all the cultures that have made this country the great place it is today. It is a value driven community, not only of the people who live there but of the organisations that work for the people of Werriwa. Just yesterday, I was present at the bicentennial celebration service for St Luke's Anglican Church in Liverpool. A Francis Greenway designed church, it has been holding services on the same site for 200 years. Reverend Stuart Pearson led the service in front of the New South Wales Governor, the Hon. Margaret Beazley; the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Davies; and the Bishop of Georges River, Reverend Lin. The service was most definitely reflective of our multicultural community, acknowledging the traditional owners as well as reflecting 19 different language groups within the congregation when the Bible verse John 3:16 was recited in different languages, from Auslan to Nepalese and Cantonese, as well as Arabic, Italian, French, Vietnamese and many more. As Councillor Charishma Kaliyanda said, it represented our diversity and unity, as many voices use the same words to provide the same message of love and respect.

Another organisation that lives and breathes those values is Al-Muntada, the Iraqi Australian University Graduates Forum. Al-Muntada works across south-west Sydney, including in my seat of Werriwa, to provide cultural and educational harmony. Since 2008, it has run projects, held activities and events that foster cultural exchange between the local Iraqi community and the wider Australian community. Amongst those most Australians value is the recognition of the transformative nature of education as well as the love of song and dance in the defence of human rights. The group includes members from all of Iraq's major cultures, religions and denominations—Sunni, Shia, Christian, Mandaean, Kurdish, Arabic and Assyrian. They embody both the rich depth of the history and culture of their Iraqi heritage and the harmonious multicultural values of their Australian homeland. Each year, they hold the Shanasheel Iraqi Cultural Festival at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. Last year's keynote speech was from orthopaedic surgeon and former asylum seeker Dr Munjed Al Muderis.

Dr Al Muderis's story is like so many great Australian migrant stories, one of someone who has come to this country with nothing but the clothes on his back and has built a prosperous and successful life in the country that has given them a second chance. Dr Al Muderis fled Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a young surgeon after refusing to mutilate the ears of army deserters. After reaching Australia by boat, via Indonesia and Malaysia, he was kept in the Curtin detention centre, including a stint in solitary confinement. Despite this, after being released he continued his career in medicine, becoming a pioneer and a world leader in developing a new method for the implanting of prosthetic limbs.

We should embrace and value the contribution of all our community, wherever they come from. This is what brings us together. Everyone should feel safe and be safe and have the opportunity to live together peacefully. It is better for all us when this happens.