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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 March 2021) . . Page.. 755 ..

All of these woman have shown strength and initiative through their work in the challenging field of construction and are very much deserving of our commendation. Last year, when they received their awards, was a difficult year to celebrate the awards in a range of events that might otherwise have occurred and that is why I thought it was important to recognise their achievements here in the Assembly.

Finally, I give a big thank you to the committee of NAWIC ACT for all of their hard work and dedication. This is a volunteer role for them in addition to their day jobs, if you like, so thank you to them for their passion in helping other women in the construction industry.

Multicultural affairs—International Mother Language Day

MS VASSAROTTI (Kurrajong) (5.26): Today I rise to reflect on the significance of a special event I attended on 21 February organised by the High Commission of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. It was the commemoration of Language Martyrs Day and International Mother Language Day.

As members may know, Bangladesh was formerly part of the Dominion of Pakistan. In 1948 the ordainment of Urdu as the national language sparked protests in East Bengal where Bangla was the language of the vast majority. On 21 February 1952, five students lost their lives while demonstrating for their mother language, Bangla.

A memorial was erected a few days later and since then Language Martyrs Day has been observed each year. The language movement was key for the struggle for independence and self-determination. Known as Ekushey—meaning 21st in Bangla—on this day homage is paid to the martyrs. People from all walks of life take part in a procession to place flowers at Shaheed Minar—or the Martyrs Monument—to pay respect.

The idea to celebrate International Mother Language Day was the initiative of Bangladesh, and on 17 November 1999 the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation, or UNESCO, recognised 21 February as International Mother Language Day. It has been celebrated around the world since and recognises linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

I was very pleased to join the High Commissioner, His Excellency Mr Mohammed Sufiur Rahman, as well as many from the Bangladeshi community to observe Ekushey here in Canberra. We made the language walk around Manuka Oval to the Shaheed Minar to lay flowers.

My former colleague in this place Alistair Coe was also present, and I acknowledge his motion of 2017 calling on the ACT to celebrate International Mother Language Day. In his motion Mr Coe noted that approximately 170 languages are spoken in Canberra. This rich linguistic and cultural diversity matters. As UNESCO notes, multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.

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