Page 103 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 15 February 2006

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(a) promoting cultural diversity through its ongoing implementation of the Framework for a Multicultural ACT; and

(b) building a strong cohesive relationship with all Canberrans through effective community engagement; and

(4) calls on the ACT Government to:

(a) develop a coherent ongoing strategy to engage Canberra’s diverse ethnic and cultural communities;

(b) ensure women and young people are separately consulted, recognising their views will make the strategy more inclusive; and

(c) present that strategy to the Assembly by the last sitting day in June 2006.

This motion, which was placed on the notice paper last December, was inspired by three things: the expiry of the ACT government’s multicultural framework at the end of 2005, the shutting down of the ACT government’s Ministerial Advisory Council on Multicultural Affairs and the well-publicised governance and communication problems in the ACT Multicultural Council.

Since the motion was put on the notice paper last year, a new, alternative multicultural council has been formed. Now we have two groups purporting to represent the ethnic communities in Canberra. I have had contact with representatives of both groups. My early observations are that the new group is well supported, inclusive and aiming to be transparent and accountable. The risk is that we will have two separate organisations dividing the ethnic communities of Canberra; so some reconciliation might need to be part of the government’s agenda.

Something else that has occurred since I put this motion on the notice paper is the racially inspired riots in Cronulla. I believe that, while we do not have any indication that there is a likelihood of such activity in Canberra, we should be well aware that these things can happen out of the blue. We have to make sure that they do not.

The point of a multicultural framework for the ACT is, clearly, to provide inclusive principles for policy development for internal and external operations. The existing framework was built on widely shared and strongly held social commitments to respect and value the continuing diverse cultures of Canberra people and to find a unifying positive strength in that diversity. The Canberra National Multicultural Festival, which continues in Canberra this week, is a celebration of that idea. And we congratulate them.

It is important to acknowledge that multiculturalism in Australia is both a project never fully completed and, at the same time, a reality. We have many cultures in this land. There have always been people in our community who are not comfortable with cultural diversity as it is and who have opposed the project to better appreciate and profit from it. There are many people who see multiculturalism as a threat to their status and who label opposition to discrimination and exclusion as political correctness. This, of course, is partly because the notion of a multicultural Australia has been championed by political leaders, that is, it now is seen as belonging to one particular side of politics.

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