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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 2 Hansard (16 February) . .

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Lunar new year

National Multicultural Festival

MRS JONES (Molonglo) (4.36): On Sunday, 7 February I was honoured to be one of the VIP guests at the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre celebration of the lunar new year for the Year of the Monkey. The Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre in Lyneham was the first, and is the largest, Buddhist temple in Canberra. It was first established in 1983. The temple hosts many community services, including monastic training and education. These Buddhists are generous people, often providing charitable and relief activities and counselling for individuals and families. They offer chaplaincy services, meditation groups and activities particularly tailored for youths, women and the elderly. On Sunday evenings the most venerable abbot hosts a weekly meditation. This meditation includes loving kindness practice, walking, and sitting in the insight meditation tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw.

The lunar new year event is the most crowded gathering among the centre's calendar year events. It is a whole night long celebration with hundreds of attendees, special guest messages, new year gifts and the very special dance and fire cracker ceremony. This was a very special celebration of the lunar new year and the Year of the Monkey. I was lucky enough to speak to the large crowd. I took the opportunity to talk about the babies who will be born in the Year of the Monkey, and how we wish them well, as well as the importance of being able to freely express one's religious beliefs and views. Our strong multicultural society is built on freedom of religion and speech.

This year the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre is also celebrating the 32nd year of the Van Hanh Monastery establishment and the 28th anniversary of the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre in Canberra, among other significant milestones. I thank the most venerable abbot and the entire Sakyamuni Buddhist community for inviting me to their celebration of the lunar new year. I thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the new Year of the Monkey, and I am very appreciative of the warm reception received.

On this last weekend Canberra hosted the Multicultural Festival, the festival started by the then Chief Minister, Kate Carnell, many years ago when the Canberra Liberals were in government, which has since been continued under this Labor-Greens government. The huge benefit of having many different faiths, cultures and ethnicities in Canberra was on display this weekend. I visited all of the stalls, and I was impressed with the sense of pride in each community's belief and culture, as well as their pride to be Canberran and Australian.

This freedom to be true to one's beliefs and cultures, whilst also being true to one's fellow Australians, is what makes our city and our country great, and what makes events like the Multicultural Festival such a success. Freedom of belief, freedom of religion and freedom of speech must always prevail. Without it, our city and our nation would not be truly multicultural.

On the Saturday of the Multicultural Festival I spent much time visiting stalls and speaking with members of the community. I was honoured to be invited on stage with the Tongan Language School for a cultural dance performance. I was also invited to


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