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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 18 February 2015) . . Page.. 548 ..

One piece of legislation passed during the term of Dr Foskey—during the period of ALP majority government—was the anti-SLAPP legislation—strategic lawsuits against public participation. I note that this is exactly the type of legislation they are rolling out in Tasmania right now. Those kinds of SLAPP suits are now possible in Tasmania, but we can be proud that we have upheld people’s rights to protest peacefully here in the ACT.

Madam Assistant Speaker, although I am currently the lone Greens member of the ACT Assembly, I stand here today to follow a long tradition of working to ensure that ecological sustainability, social justice, peace and non-violence and grassroots democracy are principles that are upheld here in the ACT.

Mon National Day

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (6.39): A few weeks ago I was honoured to represent our Chief Minister at the national day celebrations of Canberra’s and, indeed, Australia’s, Mon community. Mr Din Pla Hongsa, President of the Australia Mon Association, presided at the celebrations, which featured the community in national dress, Mon traditional dancing and a delicious banquet of Mon dishes at Merici College.

The Mon are a very proud, independent and ancient ethnic group of the Thai-Burma region. They constitute about three million of the 60 million people of Burma or Myanmar. The Mon have had to fight for their independence for over 1,000 years. In more recent times they have fought against the central Myanmar government for autonomy and rights over natural resources.

Mon refugees fleeing the conflict first arrived in Canberra in 1995. Today there are about 200 Mon in Canberra—the largest Mon community in Australia. They are part of the Mon diaspora around the world. The largest Mon community outside Asia lives in the USA; Australia is home to the second largest community outside Asia.

Celebrations of Mon National Day are observed on the first waning day of the 11th lunar month, usually around February each year. The Mon have observed the day annually since 1947, the day before the end of British colonial rule. Mon National Day also marks the founding in 825 AD of the Mon kingdom of Pegu, in lower Myanmar. The day is an opportunity for the community to come together to celebrate the Mon people’s rich history and the unique culture that has survived centuries of struggle against conquerors.

Among the celebrations of Mon culture, it is understandable for the community to have mixed emotions about years of warfare that have forced many away from their homelands as refugees. The Mon remember people at home, jailed for celebrating Mon National Day, and those Mon people, including family and loved ones, who still suffer human rights violations as they struggle for autonomy and genuine peace in their homeland.

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