Page 825 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 21 March 2017

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specific enclosed ethno-religious communities, opening lines of personal communication and engagement in respectful dialogue.

At the forum I was able to end on a note of optimism. Once marriage equality is achieved, the goal of ensuring the most accepting possible community for LGBTIQ people can begin in earnest. I would like to thank the hosts, Forum Australia, and President Mohammed Ali for organising the event. It is great to see such a civic-minded organisation facilitating discussion and debate within our local community.

I would like to thank the venerable Dr Wayne Brighton for enlightening the audience and me about the issues that religious institutions, in particular the Anglican Church, will continue to wrestle with in their canon law after marriage equality becomes the law of Australia. Dr Asmi Wood, an associate professor at the ANU, provided a comprehensive assessment of the legal dimensions of change in the Marriage Act which he had presented to a recent Senate inquiry. This was a great event. Should any of my colleagues in the chamber be fortunate enough to be invited to future discussions run by Forum Australia, I recommend that they take up the opportunity.

Mon National Day

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (4.45): In February it was my honour to join Canberra’s Mon community in celebrating the 70th anniversary of Mon National Day, held at Dickson College. This annual observance has been conducted by the Mon people since 1947 in commemoration of the founding of their ancient capital of Hongsawadi in AD 825.

An Italian trader who visited this bustling city in 1583 described it as so filled with temples that he could not number them. The main part of the city was a perfect square, surrounded by gated walls and moats filled with crocodiles. The king, he claimed, kept 800 domestic elephants.

An English visitor to Hongsawadi 200 years later noted that this once powerful kingdom had been reduced to nothing more than a province of the kingdom of Burma. The Burmese conquest of the Mon capital occurred in 1757, and from that time until now, the Mon people have, with great strength and determination, done everything in their power to preserve and reassert their unique cultural identity, language, history and heritage.

Their success in this endeavour over the past 260 years was on full display on Saturday evening, as approximately 200 participants, most of them in national dress, gathered to hear speeches in both English and Mon, share a rich a banquet of food and enjoy both traditional dances and a live rock band, all of which I and my youngest daughter enjoyed immensely.

We were graciously hosted at the table of Mon community elder Mr Nai Pe Thein Zar. I wish to pay my respects to him and to the other elders present at the celebration, Elder Nai Bein and Elder Nai Layehtaw Suvannabhum. Mr Siri Mon Chan, current president of the Australian Mon Association, warmly welcomed us to the event.

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