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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 12 Hansard (30 October) . .

Page.. 3883..

Opposition, and I think I saw every member of the Assembly come in for some part. There were a significant number of members of the Canberra Interfaith Forum representing the faith beliefs of our community, the leaders of the Canberra Islamic community, members of the ACT migrant and refugee service agencies, representatives and students from ACT government schools and colleges and the minister's student congress. They will follow this discussion on when the student congress meets tomorrow, so the conversation by that mechanism already is continuing across 86 schools and a number of our 40,000 students. It is important to continue that conversation. Indeed, many representatives from different community groups from across our great city also attended.

The audience this morning was a broad representation of our community in coming together to discuss this one important topic, and I think the fact that the reception area was pretty much full with people all talking of one voice reflects the motion put here last week by Mrs Jones: that we will stand and speak as one, that everyone in our society has a place and should be treated with respect and dignity. Everyone left this morning on a personal mission to continue that conversation within their own community groups from which they came.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Berry.

MS BERRY: Minister, what do you hope the outcomes and future directions of the interfaith and multicultural symposium will be?

MADAM SPEAKER: Asking the minister what she hopes is really (a) hypothetical and (b) asking for an expression of opinion. However, in the light of the topic, I will allow the question.

MS BURCH: The purpose of today's symposium was, quite genuinely, to discuss and explore ways in which we can strengthen the social cohesion of our community in the context of recent developments at a national level. The symposium did provide that opportunity for leaders of our multifaith and multicultural communities and other leaders and community partners to come together, find solutions and explore strategies to address those issues of concern that confront our community.

It was an important way to focus on and gain a general understanding of some of the issues that the communities are facing. During the latter part of it—Mrs Jones was there, I think, for the latter part—the symposium got down to the nuts and bolts about what are some of the practical ways that we can progress this now. That is what I was hoping for out of the symposium.

We will establish a community reference group now that will consider and oversee the implementation of many of those suggestions and recommendations that were heard. The final membership of that group will be sorted through over the next week. This morning at the symposium I announced that the co-chairs will be Azra Khan, who is the representative from the Canberra Islamic Centre down at Monash, and also John Hargreaves. Many of us in this chamber know of John's absolute passion and commitment for a fair and equitable society with a particular focus on supporting our multicultural community.

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