Page 2392 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 16 June 2009

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It seems that five hours and $600 later the government cannot even answer the basic questions. In actual fact, there is scope to put in a question on notice about what advice was given to the Chief Minister about the costing of questions on notice answering. Given that the government cannot even track incomings and outgoings, I am not surprised they have been unable to handle the challenge of budgeting in these tough economic times. The Chief Minister should take a reality check and come back down to earth and focus on getting the basics right.

World Refugee Day

MR DOSZPOT (Brindabella) (6.18): Mr Speaker, I welcome the statement by my counterpart the Minister for Multicultural Affairs earlier today on World Refugee Day and I would like to offer my own statement in support of this very important week which culminates in World Refugee Day on 20 June.

I was very pleased to attend, as part of Refugee Week, the scholarship presentation ceremony held by the Canberra Refugee Support group yesterday. The ceremony plays an important part in recognising and encouraging outstanding refugee students in the pursuit of their goals, and it is heartening to see such overwhelming achievement amongst our youngest and newest arrivals.

I was particularly moved by the story of Atuna Chol, one of the recipients of yesterday’s refugee scholarships. Her story reflects well the theme for Refugee Week this year, which is freedom from fear. The Sydney Morning Herald today carried a very interesting article which I would like to partly put on record here for all of us. It is headlined “More countries must help refugees” and reads:

Atuna Chol was forced to leave Sudan barefoot when she was nine. Carrying her two-month-old sister, she and her sick mother walked for weeks in the heat to Ethiopia before applying for asylum in the Congo. She lived in a Ugandan refugee camp before arriving in Australia in 2004 …

Ms Chol, who is studying for a business certificate, teaches computer skills to young Sudanese refugees. She was amongst 15 students awarded scholarships yesterday in recognition of academic and community success.

I can relate to Ms Chol’s situation. I was also nine years old when my parents came as refugees. The advantage I had was that I had parents who fended for me and helped me in my learning and in the efforts that I had to make to assimilate and take on my schooling in Sydney. Ms Chol had no such advantage, as we heard that she carried her two-month-old sister, and it was only she and her mother that had to fend for themselves.

There were 14 other worthy recipients of scholarships yesterday and I congratulate them all on their efforts to date and wish them all well in their future studies. It is imperative that there is a greater understanding of who refugees are, why they come, and the enormous challenges that they face when they arrive in a new land, which is so often so very different from their homeland.

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