Page 1215 - Week 04 - Thursday, 17 March 2005

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membership of the Irish Club at Weston, which numbers some 14,000. Within the ACT, Irish Canberrans tend to belong to or associate with the Irish Club, the Irish embassy, and the Friends of Ireland Society, which was established in 1985 to promote Irish culture and heritage, as well as the National Australian Irish Business Association.

In 1992 the Canberra Celtic Choir, comprising a core group of 40 members under the leadership of Stan Cronin OAM, was set up under the auspices of the Friends of Ireland Society. Stan, as the director of the Irish Musicians Association, performs not only at the Irish Club but also at elderly people’s homes and at folk festivals. For this St Patrick’s Day, the Canberra Celtic Choir will be releasing their first CD collection of music and songs.

Today the society will also be hosting an ecumenical service at the Centre for Christianity and Culture in Barton. This will consist of special liturgy, with prayers in Irish and English by members of Canberra’s Irish organisations and the Irish embassy. The National Australian Irish Business Association has also been active in the Canberra community in arranging visits to Ireland of Canberra business people, with at least two visits taking place in the past few years.

Tonight the Irish ambassador, His Excellency Mr Declan Kelly, will host a major reception at his residence in Canberra for more than 600 guests. This year a special guest will be the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in Ireland, Mr Michael Martin TD. St Patrick’s Day is an occasion to celebrate the contribution the Irish have made to Canberra and to Canberra’s multicultural identity. As the Irish say, everyone is welcome to attend any Irish function as there are no strangers, just friends whom you have not yet met. Happy St Patrick’s Day to one and all.

Women’s health

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.35): Today I want to report on an organisation based in Canberra that works on issues of global consequence. The Australian Reproductive Health Alliance was established in the early 1990s to work with the Australian government on its input to the International Conference on Population Development. The program of action that came out of this conference, held in Cairo, showed up some of the cracks in government approaches to women’s rights and to reproductive health.

At that time the Holy See worked with governments in the Philippines and Islamic states in an attempt to derail the efforts of women’s organisations and the majority of governments to change global attitudes to population and development issues. The resulting program of action is now at the core of the work of the Australian Reproductive Health Alliance and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.

Last night I was lucky enough to attend a dinner organised by the Australian Reproductive Health Alliance for Parliamentarians for Population and Development, where I met Dr Soraya Obaid, the executive director of the United Nations population fund and a number of other, primarily federal, Liberal and Labor MPs concerned about the issues. There was a certain irony in the contrast between the quantities of food that were left uneaten from our dinner and the topic of our conversation, which was the direct connection between the poverty of women, their lack of rights and their reproductive health.

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