Page 318 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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I know that in the past Minister Hargreaves has talked about contracting out some social and community activities to organisations which prove their merit. I think that is a pretty good policy, minister, so I presume you will go on with that. The ball held last night may not be the best example that the minister might point out, but it would seem to be a good example of how one of the community councils is able to take on the job and run with it, and run with it well. Hats off to Sam Wong, the president of that group, Diana Abdul-Rahman, who is his right hand, in a sense, when Chin Wong is not running around on the other flank. They have done very well indeed.

The highlight of the ball last night was the performance of the Egyptian blind orchestra. I am not sure whether that is the correct title of that group. I think the minister is about to correct me: the Al Nour wal Al Amal Orchestra. Thanks, minister. They are often referred to casually as the Egyptian blind orchestra. This was a group of ladies of all ages, all of them sight impaired. There are 30-odd players, and they played a full range of mainly string instruments and a couple of wind instruments as well.

Mr Hargreaves: And brass.

MR PRATT: And brass, yes. Because of their sight impairment, during rehearsals they literally have to rehearse and remember in detail the pieces they are going to play, because once they perform, they simply have no ability to be conducted, in a sense. They performed four or five pieces, and I believe they are performing tonight as well. The last opportunity to see them perform publicly in Canberra is tonight. They will be performing a much wider repertoire of music. They are also well known for having visited Vienna and participated in a program of musical activities there.

Mr Hargreaves: And Japan.

MR PRATT: And Japan, but this is important: in Vienna, the Viennese press praised them as a group which “had brought very interesting music and lovely standards to Vienna”. That is not bad coming from the city of classical music. So this group performed quite beautifully. His Excellency the Egyptian Ambassador had sponsored their visit. I would like to congratulate him and the Egyptian embassy on a fine piece of work and a great contribution to our community in bringing that music group here.

I have one last quick advertisement: on 15 March, the Arabic night will be held. I am not sure whether it is an integrated part of the festival but there are tickets floating around the place for that.

National Multicultural Festival

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Housing, Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (6.22 ): I would like to take up something that Mr Pratt was saying. I am sure he will be very interested to hear what I have to say. Before I do, though, I would like to echo his sentiments about the Al Nour wal Al Amal blind orchestra from Egypt. Indeed, he is quite correct: there were about 30 ladies. Interestingly, they were all women, which is really something incredible for a Muslim nation. I think our Christian nations could perhaps learn a bit

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