Page 408 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 14 February 2017

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This freedom to be true to one’s beliefs and cultures whilst also being true to one’s fellow Australians is what makes our city and our country great and what makes events like the Multicultural Festival such a success. Freedom of belief, freedom of religion, freedom of speech must always prevail. Without them, our city and our nation would not be truly multicultural or truly free.

I commend the Labor-Greens coalition for continuing and growing this event, and I wish all present a happy Lunar New Year. May we all commit to new beginnings.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Community Services and Social Inclusion, Minister for Disability, Children and Youth, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations) (4.07): It was a great honour last night to represent the Chief Minister at a celebration of Chinese Lunar New Year with community and business leaders at Australian Parliament House. As always, it was great to catch up with Sam and Chin Wong and others from Canberra’s Chinese community at the event. As Sam likes to remind us, Chinese miners and market gardeners were in this region before Canberra was even founded.

Last night’s event was a celebration not only of Chinese cultural heritage and art but also the relationship between our two countries. The top 10 Chinese entrepreneurs in Australia were awarded at the dinner, marking not just the significant cultural contribution made by the Chinese community but also the broader contribution to economic and social life. Of course, as Mrs Jones has reminded us, the Chinese are not the only culture to celebrate Lunar New Year. The festival is also important for Korean, Vietnamese, Mongolian and Tibetan communities.

Last night’s event was just one of the Lunar New Year festivities I have been able to attend this year. The other significant one was hosted by the venerable abbot Thich Quang Ba, the abbot of the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre. The Buddhist community in Canberra is now estimated at around 6,000 people. The Buddhist centre in Lyneham is not only a great physical asset for the community but also a great community asset. You could have been forgiven for thinking that all 6,000 Canberra Buddhists were at the event celebrating Lunar New Year on 27 January. Of course, it was also a great day for it to be new year’s eve this year because it was a Friday and people could party like it was the weekend.

It was a fantastic opportunity to attend this event, to experience and share in the significant cultural celebration, and also to celebrate one of our city’s greatest assets, our cultural diversity. Creating and maintaining an inclusive society which captures people’s cultural and linguistic diversity is critical to building a better city and assisting people to fully participate in our community. As a city and as a community, we are richer for sharing culture through events through the Lunar New Year celebrations held over the past few weeks.

In our multicultural Canberra community, this celebration is significant for members of all of those communities that I have mentioned as part of our richly diverse city. It is an important way for people who come to work, study and live in our city to be able

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