Page 4819 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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I am pleased to report that almost 400 people from our multicultural communities took the opportunity to attend the summit and take on the responsibility of guiding and informing government policy. We were privileged to have respected speakers from interstate to guide discussion, including Mr Neville Roach AO, former chairman of the Council for a Multicultural Australia and chairman and CEO of Fujitsu Australia; Dr Hurriyet Babacan, associate director of the Centre for Multicultural and Community Development, University of the Sunshine Coast; Ms Voula Messimeri-Kianidis, chair-elect of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, known as FECCA; and Mr Stefan Romaniew, executive director of the Australian Federation of Ethnic Schools Association.

Issues including the future of multicultural affairs, community participation in multicultural affairs and seniors and youth in multicultural Canberra were discussed. We also had a special presentation from the Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Helen Watchirs, on the new terrorism laws. Interactive workshops were held in the afternoon session that discussed migrants and refugees, the value of language and linguistic skills for the ACT, and fostering multiculturalism. There was also much discussion on the setbacks that Australian multiculturalism has suffered with the rank politicising of race by the federal government.

The day was a great success. All acknowledged that we have a very successful multicultural community and that Canberrans embrace and respect people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. However, we also heard that there are still barriers that exist to full participation in our society by members of our multicultural community, including barriers to education and employment. There was an acknowledgment of the fear of losing unique traditions, cultures and languages in younger generations. There was a level of passion and dedication that was inspiring and a commitment from the communities and individuals to further the success of our multicultural community.

The information gathered from the ministerial forums, the summit and written submissions will inform a strategic approach in the form of a new policy that will provide guidance for government and the community to address the identified issues over the next three years.

It is my intention to continue my direct engagement with the communities to ensure that everyone has a voice to government. I also believe that the new Theo Notaras multicultural centre, which houses six peak bodies and 23 multicultural community organisations, will give multicultural groups the resources they need to continue to foster tolerance and openness in what is already one of the most tolerant cities in Australia.

Canberra owes a great debt to its multicultural leaders, and the ACT government is pleased to be able to provide this facility to help them in their essential work. I note, for the record, that the member purporting to be the shadow minister was there for the best part of 45 minutes for the whole day.

Emergency Services Authority—expenditure

MR PRATT: I will seek to make a personal explanation under standing order 46 on the last comment, Mr Speaker.

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