Multiculturalism in Scullin

On Sunday the news brought into households around Australia had some confronting images courtesy of a group that calls itself Reclaim Australia. They brought to towns across the country a protest characterised by hatred, bigotry and, in many cases, violence. It was pleasing to see a level of political condemnation of these attacks on the fabric of our multicultural society, with leadership from people from across the political spectrum standing up for all Australians. It is right that these violent protests are condemned, but it is not sufficient if we are mindful of supporting a genuinely diverse and inclusive society.

So while these images were being projected I was pleased to see that, in the Scullin electorate, we were seeing a very different side of modern Australia. That afternoon, I attended a festival of peace, harmony and friendship which was organised by a group which calls itself Cultural Bridges, a local grassroots multicultural organisation bringing together in a sharing spirit so many of the cultures that make up the rich fabric of Melbourne and, in particular, Melbourne's north. We had the Persian women's group and the Cypriot Turkish women's group. We had a group representing the stories and concerns of Iranian refugees. We had the diverse Arabic women's group. We had a Sri Lankan stall and Indian and Pakistani women's groups. We had Encompass Church, Whittlesea University of the Third Age, Greenbrook Community House and Lalor Community Gardens. The Epping Scouts provided a barbecue. And we had a range of other groups showing the true side of the tolerant, respectful and engaged multicultural community spirit of Melbourne—a stark contrast to those protests. It was a real pleasure to be there along with hundreds of my constituents who all demonstrated a keen interest in sharing culture and coming together again in a spirit of peace, harmony and friendship and recognising that the great quality of our communities is in their diversity.

I would like to acknowledge the committee of the Cultural Bridges group for their work in organising such an important event and building social cohesion and enhancing social harmony. In particular, I would like to thank Bill Aspinall, the president of the group, and his family and friends, who helped set up the festival and managed the afternoon tea and Trish Macken, a community member who organised and baked the scones for the afternoon tea. I would like to acknowledge the Karapa steel pan band for providing much of the entertainment, as well as all the groups that got up and sang, danced or otherwise participated in sharing the cultural highlights of this event. It was really good to see this level of grassroots community leadership. These are challenging times for multicultural communities, who often feel under threat. They deserve support in this place from all of us, and it is terrific to see that support also demonstrated on the ground in the community.

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