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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 14 February 2017) . . Page.. 412 ..

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (4.19): As the shadow minister for multicultural affairs, I am delighted to speak on the matter before us this afternoon, the importance of the Lunar New Year to Canberrans. Canberra justifiably prides itself on being a city with a richly multicultural population. Residents of the ACT literally come from every continent and most of the world’s nations, all with a wonderfully diverse array of cultural expressions, languages, beliefs and practices.

I myself am a migrant from a tiny Pacific Island where I grew up speaking Tongan as my first language. As already pointed out by Mrs Jones, amongst those residents of the ACT who, like me, were born overseas, China and Vietnam are the third and fifth most common nations of origin. In Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, the beginning of the Lunar New Year is the most important day of the year.

The observance of this same date is also important to those whose cultural identities come from Korea, Mongolia and Tibet. Lunar New Year this year fell on Saturday, 28 January. It was my privilege that evening to attend the new year celebrations held at the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre in Archibald Street, Lyneham. Together, my three daughters and I enjoyed bowls of the most delicious noodle soup I have ever tasted. It was generously provided to the whole community. I mean that; that was very yummy soup.

My girls also received beautiful red envelopes with a 50c coin in each, a common new year’s tradition. Prayers for everyone’s ancestors were followed by another new year’s tradition, the lion dance, and other cultural performances. Participants also enjoyed an address by Thich Quang Ba, the abbot of the centre’s Buddhist temple.

Exotic and delicious flavours, colourful costumes, beautiful dances and traditions designed to bring smiles to the faces of children are all important parts of enjoying the multicultural experience. This weekend’s 21st annual National Multicultural Festival will give all of us the opportunity to experience so much of Canberra’s diverse cultures in one place.

I love this event. On Saturday you should come and see my daughters perform at the Tongan functions. At the same time, I sincerely hope that we get more from joining in each other’s celebrations than just the new and exciting sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Discovering what people celebrate—and experiencing how and why they celebrate—can be an important window into understanding who they are, how they see the world, what they value and what they believe.

This process can enrich and improve our society as new insights and values reshape how we see and interact with each other. Our communities all have so much of substance to share. We have so much that we can learn from each other as we spend time together and open ourselves up.

For example, the noodle soup and other foods served at the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre a couple of weeks ago were vegetarian because many Buddhists eat no flesh owing to the strong emphasis in their faith on refraining from taking life. The gifts to my daughters helped to teach them the importance of being kind and generous.

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