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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2490 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

that are passed on to them. We have all benefited from traditions that are part of, and

that cannot be taken out of, the fabric of Canberra.

In the late 1990s the Canberra community opened its heart to Kosovar refugees. The then government, which was willing to make accommodation available, said to the federal government, "We will take some refugees."Ms Tucker, the Chief Minister, other members and I made representations to Minister Ruddock to allow Kosovar refugees to stay in Canberra. We said, "They have settled in, they are part of the fabric of our community and we would be happy to keep them here. It would be a nice gesture."

There has been a wonderful tradition in Canberra of acceptance and acknowledgement of integration. We see that every year in our national multicultural festival. One facet of that festival is the fact that Canberra is home to diplomatic representatives. Because of its acceptance of immigration, and refugees in particular, Canberra has a strong sense of community. Community groups from many different continents are represented in Canberra.

In the 1980s and 1990s my mother, in association with other members of Curtin parish, was instrumental in the resettlement of Chilean refugees. Canberra accepted wave after wave of refugees from every continent and made them feel at home. We have benefited as a result of being given access to their cultures, their thinking, their views of the world and what they have to offer us. They have benefited because they have been presented with an opportunity to build a future in a country where they are not judged because of their colour, creed, religion or appearance, drive or level of ability. People should be judged because of who they are and not what they are or where they are from.

At times that is difficult. I am sure members remember telling jokes in their childhood about the Greeks, Italians, Poles, Irish and Vietnamese-jokes that at the time appeared to have been recycled and jokes that are told now more in jest. The opposition supports this motion simply because it is true. We are proud to be able to state that the ACT is refugee friendly. I join the Speaker in acknowledging that fact and I congratulate him on bringing this matter to our attention.


(4.04): I support the motion moved earlier by the Speaker and I thank him for moving it. When I read the wording of his motion I wondered whether there was some sort of insinuation that the ACT was not refugee friendly. After thinking about the motion and after listening intently to Mr Berry's earlier contribution, I was concerned about the suggestion that the Canberra community does not contribute positively towards being refugee friendly. I cannot hold with that suggestion and I apologise if that is not the intent of the motion.

Because of the way in which this motion is worded people could be forgiven for thinking that they are not doing enough in that regard. Mr Berry referred earlier to xenophobia. Placing things in a public document such as this might have the wrong effect; it might drive wedges in a community that do not presently exist. I am sure that Mr Berry and others in this place will continue to do everything they can to improve this territory by lobbying the government of the day and by ensuring that the needs of refugees are met.

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