Celebrating our multicultural community

19 June, 2023

I'm very pleased that this motion has come before the House. In 2004, when I returned to this House for the third time, after being defeated twice and being a oncer twice, I found a place that had changed. I grew up in a multicultural community. It was just natural for all of us—half of our community were migrants from Europe; farmers, great industrious people—that we celebrated. But around that time, starting with the New South Wales Labor government, they dropped the ministerial role of minister for multiculturalism. That then spread like wildfire across state governments and eventually to the federal government, where we didn't have a minister for multiculturalism. This made my feeling that my multicultural community that I so celebrated, especially the Italian community— that I so celebrated -and many of my friends and all the people that I grew up with were these people—that I didn’t believe had been recognised and celebrated in the way that they should be.

Since then, we have had waves of different nationalities come through this nation, including numbers of Vietnamese who came here under the then Liberal government. Were there difficulties? Of course there were, but none were much that you would wipe the word 'multiculturalism' from your everyday language. So I needed a partner in crime, and I found Maria Vamvakinou. Maria is of Greek background. Totally opposite to me, she's in the Labor Party—I was in the Liberal Party. But what we had in common was a love for our multicultural communities and the fact, at that time, they were diminished by governments not recognising their important contribution.

On visiting a number of communities, we found that they felt that we as leaders had walked away from them. I think the member for Fowler, in her address, said that when she was first at work she found really strong discrimination against one particular group in the community in her area. They felt not celebrated; they felt like they didn't belong. Hope for the future, control over your life, and belonging—these things make for a very happy community because people feel like they belong. Every member of this House would have already gone to a citizenship ceremony where new citizens have said: 'I now belong. I can call myself an Aussie overseas. I get off a plane and I'm home. I'm home! It doesn't matter the colour of your skin or the shape of your face. I'm home in this nation, where I and my family belong.' They celebrate not only their hard work, endeavour and success but also celebrated their children being able to get a university education and go on to do great things, both here and overseas. Why am I so closely connected to this? It's because I represent the Latrobe Valley, where the workers came from all over Europe to come and build the Snowy's and power system, which has given us such great benefit for all these years—until power prices went through the roof and we started to close power stations and even blow one up.

I thank the member for Fowler for bringing this forward, but it means that, for us to succeed as leaders, we must have continual vigilance that we progress ourselves and other people to be included in society. That we become inclusive parliamentarians, and inclusive in the government, making sure that people know that they belong in this Great South Land, where they have built themselves an amazing, fantastic future, to the point where one now sits with us in the parliament.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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