Page 1281 - Week 04 - Thursday, 21 March 2013

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has to and needs to change. This is why I hope that around Australia days like today represent a reminder of the work we have done and yet how far we still have to go and show why we need to continue to evaluate any progress or failings.

In recent years the closing the gap campaign has attracted immense public support. In 2012 alone more than 130,000 Australians joined National Close the Gap Day to show their support, to talk about and to spread the word and to take action to improve Indigenous health. More than 185,000 Australians have signed the close the gap pledge. Thousands of Australians have written to the federal government demanding action, and tens of thousands of Australians are taking part in National Close the Gap Day events, strongly supported by Oxfam and being held around Australia. We now have a federal minister for Indigenous health. We also now have in place an agreement of state and territory governments and oppositions to sign the statement of intent to close the gap, as well as an agreement to commence the development of a national Indigenous health plan in partnership with leading Indigenous health organisations. All of this work has helped with the healing, both practically and, I hope, spiritually.

As I said—I am sure many other politicians will say it today—there is so much more that needs to be done and will be done in the months and years ahead. But today let us also look at how far we have come and the brighter future we are beginning to pave.

Mon National Day

MS BERRY (Ginninderra) (4.41): I would like to speak at this time on an event that I attended on behalf of the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Joy Burch, on Saturday, 2 March. I represented the ACT government at the local celebrations of the Mon National Day. The Mon National Day celebrates the continuing culture and traditions of the Mon people, who live predominantly in the southern parts of Burma near the Thai-Burma border. As we are all too well aware, the global Mon community has faced many struggles over the years, including at the hands of military dictators and civil war. Despite the many tragedies that they have faced, I know the global Mon community remains optimistic for the future and are dedicated to keeping its culture and traditions alive.

The broader ACT community values and appreciates the willingness and generosity of the Mon community in sharing their unique culture and traditions with us. The Mon community’s cultural and dance group grows and continues to grow in popularity each year, and the presence of the Mon community at our local and regional events, including the National Multicultural Festival, is testimony of the dedication and pride of their community’s members.

Here in Canberra we are proud to be home to the largest Mon community in Australia. The Canberra Mon community plays a very important role in preserving and promoting the Mon’s language, culture, traditions and customs. The Canberra Mon community also has, I think, an important role to play for all Mon Australians in engaging with civic and political leaders and advocating for issues close to the Mon people. I know from my own experiences in my previous work in the union movement that Mon people are affected by the same struggles in their workplaces as many other migrant communities are.

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