Page 3774 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 27 August 2008

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The upcoming 2008 multicultural summit is just another demonstration of this government’s commitment to consulting with members of the diverse cultural groups in the ACT. Members may recall that the inaugural multicultural summit was held in December 2005, following a series of ministerial multicultural forums which I hosted with multicultural community groups throughout the year. During these forums, I received sound advice, listened to many serious concerns and was privileged to hear scores of inspiring and creative ideas. The 2005 summit was the culmination of these face-to-face community forums.

This approach worked particularly well in the development of and underpinned the ACT multicultural strategy 2006-09. Subsequent funding decisions for projects that addressed priorities for the multicultural sector were guided by this document. Since that time I have also held a very successful youth forum in 2007, where the more than 200 young people who were in attendance overwhelmingly indicated their appreciation of the opportunity to attend and to express their ideas.

Four themes were developed at that forum which will feed into discussions at this weekend’s summit. They were: racism and policing; cultural education; making culture “cool”; and sport, recreation and health. The ACT government has worked to address these concerns through a number of initiatives. One of these is a project that enables the multicultural community to undertake a role in the recruitment training of ACT police recruits. An educational awareness campaign has also been instigated which addresses racism through positive slogans of “culture is cool” and “expect respect”.

I would also like to acknowledge the important role of committees such as the ACT Muslim Advisory Council and the Refugee Coordination Committee. The council consists of senior figures from key Islamic peak bodies and community organisations in the ACT with close links to grassroots Muslim groups. The members include women and young people. The council is seen as a valuable source of advice for this multicultural summit as it keeps abreast of issues and concerns among the Muslim community of the ACT and gives recommendations that are based on factual findings arising within the Muslim and general community.

The Refugee Coordination Committee will also be involved in this summit and it demonstrates that this government has consistently and proudly assisted refugees and has been involved in their settlement needs. We formed the Refugee Coordination Committee to bridge the communication gap and to bring together Canberrans involved in supporting refugees. The involvement of groups such as these demonstrates this government’s commitment to ensuring that the 2008 multicultural summit will provide the opportunity for members of Canberra’s diverse multicultural community groups to contribute their ideas on the direction of multicultural affairs over the next four years.

The theme for this year’s summit is “shaping a multicultural Canberra”. The 2008 summit will be an important activity in the process of developing the ACT multicultural strategy 2009-2012. As with the current policy document, the new strategy will be a living document that has been created, debated and constructed by the grassroots of Canberra’s multicultural community.

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