Welcome to Australia Day

I spoke in parliament this morning about the ACT Welcome to Australia Day.

Welcome to Australia Day
27 June 2012

Last Saturday, it was my pleasure to join a significant group of Canberrans on the Welcome to Australia walk. Welcome to Australia walks were organised throughout Australia on Saturday. They recognise that there are thousands of Australians who do not care much for politics and do not know a great deal about immigration policy but do know that they care about people. Welcome to Australia began as a conversation between a number of individuals and not-for-profit organisations who believed that there needed to be a positive voice in the conversation around multiculturalism. Last Saturday was certainly a positive experience. The speakers included Henry Sherrell, the tireless organiser; MLA Joy Burch; Mark Kulasingham; Claire Doube; Dr Kim Huynh, from ANU, who told a wonderful story in which he used the analogy of tomato soup, salads and stir fries to describe the three alternative visions of multiculturalism; and Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan. Chris Bourke and Katy Gallagher from the ACT Legislative Assembly were also there.

I want to acknowledge David, a local Canberra resident and volunteer from Amnesty International ACT; Brad Chilcott, the national organiser of Welcome to Australia; the major sponsors, Amnesty International Australia and Mission Australia; as well as the National Capital Authority and the ANU student society. I also want to recognise the member for Hindmarsh, for his spearheading of Welcome to Australia walks within this parliament.

As we were walking down to the assembly area, my five-year-old son, Sebastian, said, 'Dad, what's a refugee?' I said, 'It's someone who's been treated badly in the place where they grew up and so they've gone somewhere else to find a safe space.' He paused for a moment and he said, 'So it's a bit like Harry Potter then.' I thought it was a nice analogy.

It was my great pleasure to attend the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services of the ACT career and housing expo in the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre on 7 June. I pay tribute to Dewani Bakkum, the CEO of MARSS, for her work in providing opportunities for newly arrived migrants and refugees in the ACT to access those two critical pathways into Australia society: good quality housing and a fulfilling job. Those around the room, whether they were from the University of Canberra, from rental services, or from the employment agencies, were all there united to help ACT refugees blend into the Canberra community whilst still retaining that great spark of the individual societies from which they come. Australia is a stronger nation for our migrants and refugees, and I am proud to have been a part of these events.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.