Page 201 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 10 February 2016

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in the Belconnen mall, have organised a dinner to raise funds to help impoverished children in Laos. The evening was a wonderful celebration featuring entertainers who travelled all the way from Thailand to perform at the event and similar fundraisers in other Australian cities. The masters of ceremony, Sue and Jean, did a wonderful job hosting the event.

Last year’s event involved money being raised to go to fundraising efforts to help reconstruct a school in the village of Chaengsavang in the Naxaithong district. Prior to its refurbishment the walls of this school were made of bamboo. I am told that the school had bare ground, with broken tables and benches. Previously, most of the children from this area walked many kilometres to neighbouring villages because their local school could not accommodate them. Now the school can accommodate around 50 children.

The proceeds of this year’s event will go to a children’s hospital in the Bortein district. Basic medical equipment, such as oxygen supply systems, humidicribs and ultrasound machines are badly needed.

Australia and Laos are longstanding regional partners and share a strong and diverse relationship, underpinned by deepening economic ties, community links and development cooperation. Obviously, Australia has a strong interest in ensuring Laos continues to develop as a stable neighbour that is increasingly well positioned to contribute to regional security and economic growth. Australian aid to Laos aims to build prosperity and reduce poverty while helping Laos to take advantage of economic integration within the region.

Information on the website of DFAT indicates that the Australian government will provide an estimated $37.9 million in total official development assistance to Laos in 2015-16. However, ongoing fundraising efforts, such as those from Pandora and Phan, make a huge difference to people’s lives and help build strong community links between Australia and Laos by raising awareness and undertaking practical action at a local level.

I thank Phan and Pandora for all they are doing through their extraordinary commitment to help the people of Laos, and their spirit of philanthropy should be applauded. I also thank the Laos community and the friends who attended the fundraising evening, all in all, about 250 people. It was a great event and I wish them all the best for the seventh event in 2017.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

The Assembly adjourned at 5.44 pm.

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