Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 6 Hansard (9 May) . . Page.. 1880..
DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (4.36): Tonight I want to highlight multiculturalism and respect for each other in our community. When I have a speaking role at public events I acknowledge the traditional custodians or owners and pay my respect for the ongoing contribution they make to the life of our city and region. I often explain the importance of acknowledgements and welcomes to country and that it is about the future, about how we can all learn from that Indigenous knowledge. It is about respect for the first Australians. And in the larger sense, it is also about respect for our common humanity, respect for our fellow human beings and what we all bring to our community.
This is something I have been talking about at Harmony Day and citizenship ceremonies. I am prompted to talk again about this today by reports last month of racial abuse on a bus, this time in Canberra. We must take a stand against this crude kind of racism, but we also have to be aware of more subtle racism based upon stereotypes and a lack of respect for our common humanity.
Today we celebrate and embrace the diversity of Australia's many cultures that have come together to form our nation. Given human nature and the constant search for an identity, this has taken time. It has not been easy and we are not perfect. I like to ask, "What is Australia's greatest achievement?"I cannot say it is in the sports, sciences or the arts because these are largely the success of a few individuals.
Mr Assistant Speaker, what success can we point to which is of the people and by the people, a success which we have all contributed to? I believe it is our embrace of multiculturalism as a national philosophy. From many cultures, from many lands, we have created a nation with many stories.
Earlier this year the National Multicultural Festival in Canberra had over 250,000 visitors. Probably most of Canberra turned up. It included huge Chinese New Year celebrations here in Civic, and Canberrans of all backgrounds celebrated too. Yet 150 years ago, a Chinese New Year celebration on the main street of any Australian town would have caused a riot. It was still unthinkable 100 years ago when many Australians promoted a white Australia policy.
Australia has a 40,000 year history of multiculturalism with different, distinctive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures of saltwater, river and desert. We have added the rich diversity of the background of migrants over the last 200 years. People from many cultures have arrived in Australia seeking a better life, perhaps as refugees from their homelands, escaping war, oppression, famine or grinding poverty.
Australians have changed and can change some more, and we can learn from our newest Australian citizens. That is our deal—you can become an Australian—and what being an Australian means can change as we who were here before you take on the ideas that you have brought to our country. Together we have built a new nation we can be proud of and all of us a part of—living in harmony. But the work must always continue and we can never take it for granted.