Page 3167 - Week 10 - Thursday, 17 September 2015

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got the balance wrong. As a country we need to look at what is more important, and I think we must refocus our efforts, we must support the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees more strongly than we currently do and we must get the ledger right between what we commit to military endeavour and what we commit to humanitarian endeavour.

I thank Ms Berry for bringing this motion forward today. I very much welcome the support right across the chamber for the ACT being a place that is able to accept some of those fleeing the terrible situations they are in. I trust that spirit will continue and that we will soon see people arriving who can feel safe in our wonderful community here in Canberra.

MS FITZHARRIS (Molonglo) (10.55): I, too, thank very much the minister for bringing forward this important motion today. It has been impossible for us to ignore the refugee crisis playing out across the world today, particularly as it relates to Syria. Every day it is on our screens, in our newspapers and on our radios. Civilians in Syria are being attacked and forced to flee their homes and their communities. They are not alone, but Syria is certainly capturing the world’s attention at the moment. As a wealthy, developed nation Australia has an obligation to not only accept asylum seekers but also to help nations surrounding Syria, in particular, to cope with the refugee crisis. I acknowledge the firm support the ACT government has thrown, particularly through statements of welcome from our minister, Minister Yvette Berry, and the services that the ACT government fund to assist asylum seekers settling in the ACT.

Disruption in the region of Syria has resulted in mass displacement. It is estimated that around 11.5 million people have been displaced both internally and externally. The external displacement has seen a mass exodus of Syrians seeking a better life in the European Union. While many Syrians are looking for a permanent home in the EU most seem to have a desire to one day return to Syria to live and many wish to remain in the region. They want to help their children in gaining a good education and want to support themselves in the interim until they can return to a peaceful Syria to live once again.

I was reflecting this morning on some emails I had exchanged with someone of Syrian background who is known to some members on this side of the chamber, Sham Sara, and I was reminding myself that in late 2011 when he was in London studying we exchanged emails and I was seeking to get some reassurance from him that his family back home in Syria were okay. In late 2011 he sent me a message saying, “Yes, there’s some fighting. They tend to get used to it. But my family is a long way from the fighting.”

In March 2012 we again exchanged some messages and he said that they were starting to get a little worried. His mother had just gone home for a family visit but that we were probably more alarmed about it over here seeing a brief record of what was happening in Syria on TV screens. As he said, they were a little more used to it. But it made him and his family very nervous. We look now at what is happening three years later and I do not think anyone could have imagined the grief and tragedy that is

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