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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 3 Hansard (21 March) . .

Page.. 767..

bigotry wherever we see or hear it. As leaders and representatives of our community we have a moral obligation to defend the most vulnerable in our community.

While today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and nationally we are celebrating Harmony Day, the coalition parties will debate whether the terms "insult" and "offend" should be removed from the Racial Discrimination Act. Section 18(c) is included in the act to protect Australians. It does not encroach on our freedom of speech so long as our opinions and actions do not seek to cause harm to our fellow Australians. On a day that we should be celebrating our diversity and shared values of acceptance and mateship, we see the conservative members of the coalition seeking to establish a platform to spread insulting and derogatory commentary.

We must stand up and defend the multicultural society we live in. As a local member for Yerrabi, I believe it is my role to defend the thousands of people in my electorate who identify with the diversity of cultures. Although the changes to the Racial Discrimination Act cannot be blocked in this place, we as representatives of the ACT can stand up with the hundreds of thousands of Canberrans who love and cherish the multicultural community that we live in.

This Harmony Day let us thank our friends, family, colleagues and neighbours for the contribution they make to our city and the positive impact they have on our daily lives. We are better off when we encourage love and acceptance across our community. Harmony Day is about making sure that everyone belongs. I wish all Canberrans a happy Harmony Day.

MS CHEYNE (Ginninderra) (11.19): I am proud to rise today to also speak in support of the minister's statement and to mark such an important day to celebrate our differences and recognise that everyone belongs here in the ACT. In Australia we can proudly claim to be home to the world's oldest continuous culture and to be one of the most multicultural countries in the world. One in four Australians was born overseas, and one in two has a parent who was born overseas. I am in the latter category, with my father having been born in New Zealand. Nearly one in five of us goes home each day and speaks to our loved ones in a language that is not English.

Harmony Day celebrates Australia's cultural diversity. It is about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. It enables Canberrans to demonstrate their sense of togetherness and belonging through celebrating food, sports, music and other cultural activities. Harmony Day is based on the understanding that we are better due to our differences. Newly arrived Australians bring fresh insights.

One example Minister Stephen-Smith spoke of was migrants who came to Australia to build the Snowy River scheme, and my grandfather was one of those. Australia's first peoples offer unique ways of looking at ourselves as a community and as a nation. Together, these perspectives and contributions help all of us solve our problems and appreciate our strengths.

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