Australian Society

 Australian Society

I wasn't in the chamber yesterday, but I watched on the television in my office as the member for Swan, in such a heartfelt way, reminded people in this chamber that the words we say here reverberate around the country, and I am pleased to join in this matter of public importance today and see the opposite occurring. The words being said today will reverberate—hopefully, around this country. Hopefully, at kitchen tables tonight, people will be discussing the members of parliament who stood up and talked about social cohesion and the importance of social cohesion in all our communities.

There is not a member of this House who does not feel the loss that the globe is watching. But, as I said to a group of students in one of the Islamic schools in my electorate a week ago, while I was hosting the SRC forum for the end of the year—and, as I said in this place when I spoke on the resolution supported in this House—my community is like a microcosm of the globe. If we get social cohesion right in Wyndham then we will be something for the world to look to and say: 'Look at that! Australia already prides itself on being that shining light of multiculturalism.' I am proud to say, as a proud Victorian, that I think we do it extraordinarily well south of the border.

 

We're all parochial! No-one is more parochial than an Australian group of people. What has mortified me most in our communities in the past month has been people taking to a conflict like it's a football game—choosing a side and barracking. This is something for which there should be tears, shared tears of humanity, that in another part of the world people cannot resolve differences through peaceful means. This is something we should mourn, and I know that in my community it is being mourned.

As has been mentioned—and I want to thank the member for Goldstein and the member for Wentworth for their words—I represent one of the most multicultural communities in Australia. I attended an event last week, the Barry Jones Oration, which is organised by the Wyndham City Council. It's an annual event. I walked into that event, stood and smiled, because what I saw was the business community, our teachers and schools—the representation for my community in that room was extraordinary. And it was multicultural and multi-faith. There are over 100 languages spoken in my community, and 46 per cent of my community were born overseas. We come together every day in classrooms and every day at the school gate. We are building that great multicultural community.

I said here on the day of the resolution that I was pleased to receive emails, because I was pleased to see that I had people concerned about what happens around the globe. That isn't surprising in my community; people are affected by issues around the globe personally. And they're affected by this issue personally. I want to say thank you directly to the people in my community who have behaved so responsibly throughout this. They're feeling the pain, but their behaviour is cognisant of social cohesion. I want to thank the leaders—particularly of the Muslim community in my community—for their forbearance, for meeting with me and for listening as much as they speak. I hope they say the same of me. I want to thank them for showing their respect for social cohesion because, trust me, we know what the other looks like. We're looking at the other; we're looking at what happens when you don't have social cohesion. We're looking at what happens when people can't find a peaceful outcome.

I want to finish by saying to those who are stoking division, to those who think that seeing Islamophobia is a good thing, or that antisemitism is a good thing: cease and desist. It is our country you're hurting in following this line. We all need to be the grown-ups in the room, the grown-ups at the kitchen table and the grown-ups in the classroom. We all need to ensure that the young people who are listening to us hear that we stand together.

 

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