Page 3273 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

improve their knowledge and understanding of cultures and religions, as demonstrated by their strong attendance at functions and events put on by the diplomatic missions in Canberra. As a Canberran, I am proud to say that Canberrans welcome cultural and religious differences. We embrace the differences and we celebrate the differences. The ACT government, for its part, provides support and creates opportunities for Canberrans to welcome, embrace and celebrate diversity.

Of course, social harmony does not just happen. The ACT is home to more than 200 multicultural and multireligious groups, which undertake activities promoting social harmony, tolerance and respect. There is also a collection of individuals who together make up Canberra’s 2,800 community groups, usually volunteers from all backgrounds who contribute to community life in Canberra. The message here is that social harmony can only be achieved by working together and that it is the responsibility of every individual to promote the principles of equality and respect.

The ACT government is meeting its responsibilities by supporting the multicultural community, particularly the new and emerging communities. The most recent demonstration of that was the funding for the development of a multicultural centre which will house the peak organisations and provide office space for the new and emerging communities, a prayer room and a functions room. The activities centred upon the multicultural centre will provide opportunities for positive interactions between communities and the promotion of understanding of each other, leading to respect for each person and to respect for other cultures.

Respect is born out of understanding and usually follows listening. The ACT government has placed a high priority on providing the opportunities for communities to voice their concerns. One of these strategies involves the new and emerging community groups meeting directly with the minister for multicultural affairs in a small group context. This has proved to be a very effective way of addressing concerns in the new and emerging community groups.

As I have said, the strong social cohesion in the ACT is no accident. It is the result of working together and listening to each other. It is a result of mutual respect. Of course, in uncertain times, we cannot be complacent and the ACT government will continue to assist the promotion of cultural and religious tolerance and respect in order to maintain social harmony in the territory.

Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I have spoken about what the ACT government is doing, but I would also like to make a couple of comments from a personal perspective. Members, of course, know of my Jewish heritage. They would not necessarily be aware of the fact that I grew up in a household with a mother who was born Jewish and a father from almost a typical country Australian family who converted to Judaism.

My grandparents and my father were from the Mudgee region and you did not really get too many people who were Jewish, Islamic or not of a WASP background—I suppose that would be the way of describing it—in that region, so it was a bit of a cultural shock for my father’s family when my father married my mother and then converted to Judaism.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .