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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2502 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

Abby's close friends at school-if one has close friends when one is in kindy-are all migrants and refugees from Burma, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Abby is learning a lot and she is having a wonderful time with those students, even though there are some communication problems. However, they seem to manage all right. The nice thing about our education system is that young people can learn from and enjoy the opportunities that are presented to them. We can learn from young people how to deal with people in the adult world.


(5.02), in reply: I will not take up much more of the time of the Assembly, though I am happy that so many members contributed to debate on such an important issue-an issue that was enunciated in a pretty straightforward motion. I would like to respond to some of the statements that were made earlier in debate. Mr Cornwell asked why it was necessary to move a motion such as this. Ms Gallagher answered his question by stating that, because we are community leaders, we have an obligation to our community to promote healthy philosophy at every opportunity, to oppose racism and to oppose divisive elements that creep into society-one of the problems that arises in the refugee debate.

In recent years no-one made any great effort to promote the acceptance of refugees, so the community was not prepared for the recent pressure that was felt as a result of the refugee intake. Politicians and other leaders failed to address the issue comprehensively and in a way that would prepare the community. It is our job to send a message to our constituents and to provide leadership on this issue. It is all too easy in the political marketplace to respond to a poll that is undertaken by some sort of marketing company to test community feeling at a particular time. That is what occurs in modern politics. However, it would be dangerous to use such a poll to develop sound ideas in the community.

This straightforward and easily understood motion-which is a means of promoting an idea in the community-is an idea that we are all obliged to sell if want the community to develop into a more wholesome society that embraces all its constituent parts no matter where they come from. I acknowledge the useful contribution that was made by all members in this place, which I know will hold them in good stead. I acknowledge in particular the involvement of Ms Tucker on the refugee issue, as I know she has had a longstanding commitment to that issue.

Throughout our lives we have all been touched in one way or another by this issue. I recall as a little boy-some members might say that that was a long time ago and that I would not be able to remember-being puzzled by a situation in Glebe, where my grandmother used to live. I used to play with a little girl who could not speak English. I was told that she was Romanian and that she came to Australia in that flood of refugees after the Second World War.

It never really dawned on me what it was all about until much later. I can still remember being puzzled by the fact that we could not communicate but that we could play together. We played with little toys and things like that and everything went smoothly, but later on it became clear. The greatest shock that I ever received-I think I have told this story before-was when I met a Chilean refugee who had been tortured by the Pinochet regime, who had been left for dead and who ultimately found

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