House debates

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


Werriwa Electorate: Polynesian Community

7:05 pm

Photo of Laurie FergusonLaurie Ferguson (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

A significant facet of the Werriwa electorate is the presence of a strong Polynesian community, most particularly the Samoans who, in the last census, numbered around 3,300, and the Maoris, who numbered approximately 1,400. That is not to belittle the presence of Tongans, indigenous Fijians, Cook Islanders and also most particularly, a very strong Fijian Indian presence.

Tonight I want to talk about a number of aspects of their actions in my electorate. On 8 August, the NSW Council for Pacific Communities will conduct, as it does every year, a gala event at the Campbelltown Catholic Club's Cube auditorium. I want to commend Tia Roko the state chairperson, and Mel Fruean the local chairperson. Those awards cover education, performing arts, visual arts, volunteers, service, community and sport. The attendance is usually around the 500 mark.

Recently, we had Samoan independence events. The first event was a ball at Bankstown, where two organisations, the Samoan Council Sydney and La'u Samoa Council, joined together. I want to commend Sonny Wilson and Herman Alaalatoa Emani for their work with regard to that. That was a significant commemoration of the struggle for independence by Samoa, which a lot of people are unaware of. It involved the 1929 shooting down of 12 Samoans by New Zealand forces, including Tupua Tamasese, whose dying words were that the struggle for independence should be by peaceful means.

That ball was followed by a combined church service at Minto the following week. Quite frankly, the level of religiosity amongst Samoans is quite high by any international standards. On the following day, there was a very large festival at Liverpool's Whitlam Leisure Centre. That festival involved a sevens competition, netball—which is a very strong sport with Samoans—music, games et cetera. I was particularly impressed, too, with the presence of a women's domestic violence organisation raising that issue, which is obviously an issue often put on the backburner in regard to its community profile.

Additionally, I recently visited the Minto Heights site of the Tongan Community Garden. There, president Joseph Matahau, vice president Sioi Mataele, Bishop Sosaia Matiaki and president Braden Murrin, from the Mormon Church, were in attendance. This is a significant garden—yams, taro, bananas, sweet potato et cetera—and a quite sizeable area, part of which is also used by the Maori community. This is a tremendous facility—people are getting close to nature again and being involved in a very important cultural practice. I also particularly congratulate them on the umu barbecue.

I recently also met with the Maori performing arts council with my colleague, the member for Fowler. Next year they will run a competition between 13 to 15 Australian Maori groups for the right to perform in the New Zealand national performance championships. It should attract about 5,000 people to Homebush. I want to congratulate Lucy Martin; Pearl Pickering; the president, Wayne Prentice; and Greg Makutu, who is an employee of the New Zealand Consulate-General in Sydney and who recently received the Queens Service Medal for his work with the services.

A local group, Te Kete Kahurangi, should also be an attendee at this competition. It involves seven particular performances over a 25-minute period. To give you an example of the dedication of these people, 40-person groups practice for 10 hours each Saturday and Sunday for four months in the lead-up to these championships. If they win in Australia they then compete in New Zealand, and they will represent New Zealand at various ceremonial events in New Zealand and around the world.

I want to congratulate my Pacific communities on all these activities. They have a strong presence in all aspects of our local society and in leadership positions. I want to take this opportunity to reiterate a social problem of this country, in regards to islanders: we have a view that most Samoans and Tongans have quite passable English. That is not always the case. Unfortunately, we also have a failure in intensive English classes. This is a problem in southern Queensland particularly—a large number of islanders come to this country with very poor English and go from our school system into antisocial activities. (Time expired)


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