Thursday, 10 December 2020
Fraser Electorate: Vietnamese Australians
Fraser is a community with remarkable diversity. Over 30,000 Vietnamese Australians call Fraser home. Vietnamese Australians have made an extraordinary and enriching contribution to our nation. Many of the Vietnamese Australians I represent left behind the country they love as refugees. This country welcomed them with open arms. I'm proud that communities like Sunshine and St Albans were especially welcoming to these new arrivals. Many of those families still call those suburbs home today. As the member for Oxley said in this place just a couple of days ago of the Vietnamese community in his electorate:
They are a proud group of Aussies who love this country but have never forgotten the country that they left behind …
I echo that sentiment. It very much applies to the Vietnamese community in my electorate.
I'm grateful to the Vietnamese Australians in my electorate for the welcome they've given me as the member for Fraser. They make an extraordinary contribution to our cultural life and to our economy. They are also a very generous and giving community. One example of many is the tireless support over many years that they have given to healthcare in the west, including extensive fundraising for the Joan Kirner Women's and Children's Hospital. Of course, this philanthropic, community-minded spirit has very much continued during the difficult COVID pandemic that we've just experienced throughout much of this year. Many vulnerable, isolated people were given considerable support through volunteer organisations throughout Fraser, but the Vietnamese community certainly gave considerably in that respect.
One of the first community events that I've been able to attend since the easing of restrictions was for the Au Co dance group, which promotes Vietnamese culture through song and dance. I was very glad to have been able to support this group, which received much-deserved funding through the 2019-20 Volunteer Grants program. To have got that grant in a very competitive process reflects their wonderful contribution to our community. I want to acknowledge a few of the Vietnamese community organisations that give so much to our community: the Vietnamese Community in Australia—Victorian Chapter; the Australian Vietnamese Women's Association, which attends so many of the functions that I attend in my electorate; the Australian Vietnamese Arts association; the Vietnamese Brimbank Senior Citizens Friendly Group; the Vietnamese Chinese Elderly Association in the west—and it was my privilege to grant a number of certificates to centenarians this year; the Hong Bang Vietnamese school; the Indochinese Elderly Refugees Association; the Quang Minh temple; and the United Vietnamese Buddhist congregation of Australia-New Zealand.
In addition to singling out the Vietnamese community, I also want to make some observations about what has been an extremely difficult year for the whole Australian community, but obviously, during parts of this year, in particular, for Victoria, for Melbourne and for Melbourne's west. In some respects, Melbourne's west was hit as hard as any community in Australia, in terms of the health aspects of the COVID pandemic but also in terms of the economic aspects, the mental health aspects and the isolation. It's been a very difficult year for the community.
I'm very proud of how the community was able to live, for many months, according to a number of very stringent but necessary constraints. In doing so, the Victorian community has been able to reduce the infection rate of COVID to extremely low levels, and indeed we now see that we have had a number of consecutive weeks of zero cases and zero fatalities.
It's important that we compare this to the experience overseas. At around the same time that Victoria was experiencing multiple hundreds of cases a day, a number of European cities and European countries were experiencing similar levels of infection. It is telling to compare and contrast the trajectories that those communities overseas and Victoria have experienced in the intervening period. Victoria stands out as a beacon for what can be achieved with a sensible and balanced response. I want to pay tribute to the community, obviously, but also to the state government and to bureaucrats and to the people who work in all of the different service agencies; to people who worked in aged care—to so many people in Victoria, in the community and in government, who were able to work together with the community to make that lockdown work.
Now, in contrast to those communities overseas, we are, thankfully, moving towards a Christmas where people can see their families and their friends, and we celebrate that. I thank the Victorian community for what they have been able to achieve and congratulate them.