Welcome to Australia - speech in Parliament

Our national anthem, by its title, places striving for fairness at the centre of our national endeavour. It goes on, of course:For those who've come across the seas

We've boundless plains to share …

All of us hear this anthem pretty regularly, but some listen more closely than others, and they respond. In this regard, I rise to acknowledge the work of Welcome to Australia in light of Saturday's wonderful Walk Together.

 I was humbled to be asked to be an ambassador for Welcome to Australia and I am proud to support this great organisation.

I became an ambassador because I think it is important to reclaim Australia as a welcoming and inclusive country. It is especially important now to celebrate our strength in diversity and to show our compassionate side, our best side. That is why, on Saturday, I joined thousands of Melburnians to walk together, including many familiar faces from the Scullin electorate and my daughter Alice, walking from the State Library to the Treasury Gardens. All of us who were there chose to walk together to make clear our support for hope over fear. As Brad Chilcott from Welcome to Australia said at the Sydney march: 'We're here today looking for leaders who will intentionally equip us for welcome, for inclusion, for compassion, for decency. It's time to celebrate the diversity that makes our nation great. It's time we measured leadership in the capacity to add dignity, humanity and unity to our community and character. It's time to recognise that no matter who you are, where you come from or how you arrived here, you are a person who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. It's time to work together to build an Australia characterised by welcome, equality, compassion, fairness and unity. It's time for hope—the hope that thousands of people committed to a better Australia can bring.'

There are reasons to be hopeful. I think in particular of the spontaneous and visceral community response, especially in the suburbs of Melbourne's north that I am privileged to represent, to the Abbott government's proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act—changes proposed to license bigotry. The lesson in the success of this community campaign is that hope from the community can rise above fear and those cynics who seek to exploit this fear. We will need to play our part in ensuring that hope defines the Australia we live in.

In this regard, I pay tribute to the role of the community leaders who supported Walk Together, including parliamentary colleagues, great friends and fellow ambassadors like Ged Kearney, Van Badham, Deepak Vinayak and Guri Singh, as well as Tom Ballard, the MC. I also acknowledge the powerful contributions from all who spoke, and especially all the volunteers who did so much to generate such a great community sentiment and to express it. Thank you for all of your efforts. So I speak today to bring the feelings of Melbourne's streets on Saturday before this parliament. With leadership here and action in the community, we will see a country confident enough to put hope over fear, brave enough to share, and always striving for fairness.


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