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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 7 Hansard (16 August) . . Page.. 2287..


Multicultural affairs

Mr Michael Westerberg

MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (6.00): Last night I attended a function celebrating the 59th anniversary of Indian independence. India is one of the powerhouses in our region and the world both economically and globally as a result of the respect it has gained from its engagement with other countries. With over 150,000 people of Indian ethnicity living in Australia this group of itself forms a strong economic and cultural bond between Australia and India. Our relationship also encompasses significant trade links such as in gold and coal. India is a key export market for Australia and one that has shown rapid growth over recent years.

Our links are not just economic. Around 21,000 Indian students are studying in Australia, an increase of over 80 per cent since 2002. This makes India the second largest source of overseas students in Australia. We share one of our national days: Australia Day and India's Republic Day both fall on 26 January. It is a welcome link between our countries that India will host the next Commonwealth Games in 2010 following the successful event held in Melbourne earlier this year.

Our ties are obviously strong in other areas-for example, cricket. Both nations share a great love for cricket and it is one of the things that unite both cultures. When I meet Indian people one of the first things we talk about is how the Australian cricket team is going, how the Indian cricket team is going, and who will win the Ashes. We also share common institutions-for example, a common legal system that we inherited from the British, which strengthens the ties between both countries. Those similarities mean that interaction between both countries and between Australians and Indians living in this country is somewhat more coherent than it might be with countries that have different heritages.

In Australia the contribution of people of Indian heritage is especially noteworthy. The influence and contribution of Indian-Australians are evident in many areas such as business, public service, education, science, engineering, medicine and the arts, to name a few. Of the more than 100,000 people with Indian heritage living in Australia, 80 per cent are Australian citizens, which is well above the average of 75 per cent. At the last 2001 census it was apparent that 93 per cent of Indian-born Australians speak English fluently. At 30 June last year 94,000 Indian-born Australians over the age of 15 years were employed.

I pay tribute to the contribution that our local Indian community has made to the ACT along with many other ethnic groups that have come here and made Canberra their home. I think the Indian community is well respected as a particularly law-abiding community and one that has made a genuine contribution to this country, as have many other ethnic groups. Our relationship with India will become more and more important as it becomes one of the world powers in the next 20, 30 or 50 years. India will be one of the most powerful nations in the world and the Indian-Australian community will play an important part in assisting to maintain Australia's links with that important nation.

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