Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Reflecting on this divisive government

I rise tonight in this adjournment debate to share some of the reflections that I have had over the past year during the events I have attended across Melbourne's west and in my electorate. Last week, I attended a forty-year celebration of the Vietnamese community in Australia. It was 40 years since the fall of Saigon, 40 years since boats first started leaving Vietnam with people fleeing and coming to Australia.

I spoke to people who had arrived by boat, who had taken the risky journey crammed with others seeking freedom after war and also those who had arrived by plane having been processed in neighbouring countries in later years. I spoke to them, their children and their grandchildren about the great contributions the Vietnamese community has made to Melbourne. Having worked a long time in the west of Melbourne and having taught a large number of Vietnamese children—some of them the age of some of the children in the room with us last week—I also remembered the hurdles to resettlement, the racism that we as a community had to find a way through, the racism that had to be challenged, the myths that had to be confronted and the support we had to put in place to build the community support for our great multicultural country.

I spent some moments reflecting on the leadership that it took at that time when I was working in a classroom, when these children were sitting in my classroom. Viv, a Vietnamese community member who was with me on the night, was reminiscing as we looked at the panels that recounted the war in Vietnam and the 40 years since. She shared with me a memory of hearing the Honourable Malcolm Fraser speak to a Vietnamese community where he challenged that community and said—this is as his sentiment, of course, not a direct quote—that they had been the beneficiaries of Australia's multiculturalism, the beneficiaries of bipartisan leadership and they had a responsibility in their new country to ensure that others were made welcome.

It was an interesting evening. It was one where I was actively reflecting on being a much younger person living in an Australia that had a real vision across the political spectrum about what our future might look like and what a wonderful multicultural country we might become. I raised my three children and they are beneficiaries of that wonderful time. That was one event across the week.

I, as we have heard on many occasions across the last two days, attended and the opening of the Regional Rail Link and I also attended the opening of the new recreation centre, the Eagle Stadium, in Wyndham. Both of these projects represent the power of partnerships, the power of a federal government—in this case a federal Labor government—with a vision, with a commitment to working with local government and with a commitment to listening to the people closest to those on the ground to deliver services and deliver funds to make life in communities stronger. These were great celebrations. They marked for me the support the electorate and the local government had received in infrastructure, and they marked the power of the productive relationships.

I also visited Headspace, another great Labor introduction but one that, thankfully, again had bipartisan support. I talked to lots of people across the electorate and then I returned to this place, where I am saddened that we are being actively divided—pensioner against pensioner, family against family. I am utterly amused that we have found a new line for the division, around windmills—an iconic Australian symbol, and we are going to divide around windmills. I look forward to continuing my work in this place in representing my community and finding a way forward, finding a new vision for Australia. If we cannot find that vision, I look forward to a long debate on the vagaries of the Hills hoist.


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