Page 1680 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 3 May 2005

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When he lost his seat at the 1974 election Grassby was appointed as the first Commissioner for Community Relations and administered the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. Long after his official duties ceased Al Grassby continued to speak and work on behalf of the many ethnic communities that now make up the Australian community.

The Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia and the ACT Multicultural Council in particular will miss him. Let us leave the last words to Al Grassby, who presented a snapshot of the Australian population to a conference in 2004. He said:

The 20 million Australians are made up of more than 200 different ethnicities—we speak more than 200 languages at home, and if you are planning a marriage, you have a choice of more than 100 different religions registered with the authorities to perform the ceremony … To sum up the population changes in Australia today, 22% of people were born in another country; about three-quarters of Australians identify with an ancestry other than indigenous Australians who comprise about 2% of the population. More than 40% of all Australians have at least one parent who has been born overseas. In all, Australians come from more than 200 birthplaces.

I am still quoting Al Grassby here. It continues:

Despite all our experiences, we are still confronted by the politics of fear mainly associated with asylum seekers and refugees. As a result of the impact of armed conflict in various parts of the world, we have seen a swelling tide of ordinary women, men and children fleeing violence and seeking asylum in host countries. A very small number have sought to come to Australia…The ratios of Australia’s intake of refugees per capita is 1:800 whilst Canada accepts 1:399 and Pakistan 1:95.

These are salutary words, reminding us that the fight for a tolerant, inclusive community is far from over. At least, thanks to Al Grassby and the many citizens and organizations he worked with, we now have a framework in which to address these kinds of injustices.

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services and Minister for Police and Emergency Services): I join with the Assembly in acknowledging the life of Al Grassby and paying our condolences to Ellnor and Gabriella. I would also like to acknowledge, in my capacity as the minister responsible for multicultural affairs, that it was in fact Al Grassby who motivated me many years ago to stop talking about it and start doing something about it.

As the Minister for Urban Services I would also like to acknowledge Ellnor Grassby, a former minister for urban services in this place. When I have attended functions and Al and Ellnor have been there and acknowledgments have been dished out, I have often thought how correct and appropriate it is that both Ellnor and Al were acknowledged. I sometimes wish people would acknowledge her contribution as a minister in this place a little bit more frequently, and we will see about that.

I want to talk about Al Grassby’s legacy to multiculturalism in a different vein. People have outlined Al’s history—and the Chief Minister has done just that in a fantastic chronology. The Leader of the Opposition quoted a story, and I think I remember the statement, about how Al Grassby had his army uniform tailored. I wish I had had that

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