Oct 11, 2005

Condolence Motion – 2002/2005 Bali Bombings, Pakistan Earthquake

Condolence Motion – 2002/2005 Bali Bombings, Pakistan Earthquake

11 October 2005

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (5.18 pm)—Tomorrow it will be three years since the tragic day at the Sari Club in Bali. We will not forget the horrific events of 12 October 2002 and how a favourite place for so many Australians changed forever. Following the attack I spoke in this House of how the event had scarred my local community. Today I again want to honour those from my electorate who lost their lives: Debbie and Abbey Borgia, Robyn Webster and Louiza Zervos. Our thoughts are again with their families and loved ones as we remember three years on the loss and grief that they have had to endure.

They have been recognised by the local community. I attended the funeral services of Robyn Webster at St Clement’s church next to my office in Marrickville where Brian, her husband, and Kristy, her daughter, who was also severely injured in the Bali bombing, were present, along with other family members. It was indeed a moving ceremony, one which I will never forget. I also attended the service at St Bridget’s in Marrickville for Debbie and Abbey Borgia, who were remembered by Debbie’s husband, John, and the rest of their family and school friends. Since then the community have indeed united.

Outside Petersham Town Hall—thanks to the assistance of the then mayor, Barry Cotter, and the Marrickville Council—on Crystal Street, is a permanent memorial. The Debbie and Abbie Borgia community centre is an extraordinarily fine facility down at Steele Park in Marrickville. It is a facility where young people from the local community and schools practice basketball and martial arts and where people have community meetings. It is a focal point for the community, just as the Robyn Webster Centre in Tempe is a focal point particularly for young people in the community. There, recently, as I understand it, was the largest Indigenous art mural in the world. I say to those present here in the House and to others, as you fly into Kingsford Smith airport—and you may recall this from my comments on other issues—you will fly very close and low over my electorate. Literally, as you fly in from the north and also from the west, on landing you can see that mural. It is indeed enormous. The community has continued to rally around.

I remember the function that was held at the Anzac club in Marrickville. I got an invite through a phone call. I do not think there was a letterbox drop. I think it was just word of mouth. I turned up there about 15 minutes before the function was to start. You could hardly get into the club. The local community—the working class people of Marrickville, St Peters, Dulwich Hill and Tempe—showed the best of what makes this country a fine place in raising funds to give assistance and support to people in their hour of need. Marrickville identities such as Jeff Fenech made contributions and donations of memorabilia which was auctioned; local businesses kicked in. From that tragic event there was unity in the community.

The community’s young people were particularly affected. In Bali at that time were members of the Dulwich Newtown Basketball Club, and students from Casimir college in Marrickville and Dulwich Hill High School were caught up in the tragedy. Many of them were injured, and all who were there experienced the trauma that only those who were there could have understood. These were young adults with their lives ahead of them—lives cut so cruelly short. Many of them, and we know the football team from Western Australia, were sportspeople—young, active and engaged in their communities—who were celebrating their end-of-season victories.

Whilst three years ago we grieved with many families who had lost their youngest members, today we think of the children who have lost their parents. Families have again been split apart in the cruellest of ways. As families were enjoying a meal together on the shores of Jimbaran Bay, that peaceful beachfront was overturned by an evil act. I was moved by the words of the young man from Newcastle who spoke on behalf of the families at the commemorative service at the Sacred Heart Cathedral last week. Joe Frost explained how that bomb had hit our whole community. Joe Frost showed incredible strength in the face of this cowardly act. He asked the questions that plague us all: why did this happen? He asked how can having dinner on the beach with your family and friends be so offensive to these people, the people that their fundamentalist supporters now call heroes. It is quite clear that these people must be brought to justice. They must be caught and brought to trial. Jemaah Islamiah must be outlawed.

Today I want to focus on the communities and the families that have been so terribly affected. As Joe Frost said, we will stand together and make it through. We must all stand together as caring local communities—and, indeed, together as a nation. We must fight this evil with compassion, humanity and tolerance. We have to make sure that in our response to these actions the terrorists do not win. Terrorists do win if we give up the important civil rights that give us in Australia our freedom and that make us proud as a community.

We must reach out to our Balinese neighbours, whose families too have been torn apart, whose businesses are empty and whose communities have been divided. We must also reach out to the members of our local communities who have suffered vilification as a result of acts of terrorism across the world. As a society we must foster tolerance. Division on the basis of religion has no place in Australian society. Terrorism is the act of cowards. It is wrong whether it is committed by individual suicide bombers, by terrorist groups or by states. Terrorists promote fear. In the face of this fear, we must encourage the opposite. When our children now ask us the hard questions, it is humanity and compassion that must frame our answers.

It is with compassion and humanity that we must also reach out today to those who suffer in South Asia in the aftermath of a horrific natural disaster. The devastating earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale has taken many lives. Over 30,000 lives have been lost in Pakistan alone. These figures are set to rise. The United Nations has estimated that there are over 2.5 million people now in need of shelter. Many of these people are in remote areas. The need for international aid is urgent. The scale of this need is overwhelming. The nation of Pakistan has been the hardest hit. Classrooms that were full of children have been reduced to piles of rubble. Many villages and townships have lost a generation of their people. We must stand in solidarity with the people of Pakistan at this horrific time.

Our thoughts are with the members of the Pakistani community in Australia, including those in my local electorate in the inner west of Sydney who have friends and relatives in the affected areas. Australians gave generously in 2002 when our friends and Balinese neighbours needed our assistance. Now again we must do all that we can. We again gave money and showed great generosity in the aftermath of the tsunami. The Pakistan High Commission has launched an appeal for the victims of the earthquake. Medicines, tents and emergency food provisions are all desperately needed. I urge all Australians, local businesses and indeed the government to dig deep and to show once again what compassionate, generous people Australians are.