Mar 4, 2015

Constituency statements – Multiculturalism

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:13): In the current global political atmosphere, we hear a lot about ethnic and religious tension. That, of course, is understandable. Recent incidents here and overseas have had the effect of making some people feel uncomfortable. There are, indeed, a few lunatics in our midst who want to promote division and disharmony—but I reject such sentiments. Today I want to highlight the positive side to the ethnic and cultural development that has underpinned the development of our great Australian society.

I count myself very lucky to live in the inner west of Sydney, a multicultural heartland where neighbours live side by side in harmony. What I see are good people who care about each other and their communities, people with goodwill raising their families and living their lives in peace. I see people who are prepared to maintain the vibrant cultures from their birth lands but mesh them with Australian values of freedom and the fair go to create a kind of cultural alloy that is as strong as it is interesting. I see beauty in people’s faces, whatever their colour, and music in their voices, whatever their language.

To go into a local school in my electorate is to see the success of modern multiculturalism. To have my son return home from school with a few words of Chinese or Vietnamese or Arabic or Greek benefits not just him but also the whole the community. There is nothing unusual about my electorate. There are electorates right around the country that are just like that. Most people in the community take the same view. The message is simple: we should stiffen our spines as we resist hatred. Diversity is strength; tolerance is natural. We are all part of the same human family.

I will be enjoying that diversity in coming weeks. Just a couple of weeks ago I celebrated the Lunar New Year in Ashfield, which has a large Chinese and Vietnamese community. It was a fantastic celebration, with the local kids from Ashfield Public School, whatever their ethnic background, participating in a Chinese song and dance routine in Mandarin. In a couple of weeks time I will be at the Bairro Portugues celebration of the Portuguese community, which is based in Australia at Petersham—a ‘little Portugal’—in my electorate. It is a street celebration that grows each and every year. The Ashfield Carnival of Cultures will be on 22 March. This is the 18th year that it will be held. More than 20,000 people attend that celebration. Diversity is our strength. We must ensure that we protect it, defend it and promote it.