Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Australia Day, Migration
As another Australia Day has come and gone, it again provided an opportunity to reflect on and embrace the diversity of our community. The lead-up to 26 January and the day itself can be painful for some Australians and not a cause for celebration. It's important to consider the impact European settlement has had on the lives of First Australians and, indeed, how lives were so dramatically disrupted. I would like to ensure that we honour our Indigenous heritage, recognise our shared history and work together to heal the hurt of the past and reduce ongoing inequalities. I am committed to finding a way that we can be a more inclusive Australia.
For so many of us here, no matter our thoughts on the day itself, I think we can all recognise that the occasion is still an opportunity to reflect on the way our community embraces diversity and migrants. As a member of parliament and in my previous role as a mayor, I've had the great privilege to take part in citizenship ceremonies where we welcome people from all corners of the world. This experience was undoubtedly even more powerful this year, as we contemplated what it means to live in Australia in the midst of a global pandemic. One of the most common themes I hear from Northern Tasmania's migrant community is how desirable our region is to live and raise a family in. This is demonstrated in the eagerness of new Australians to contribute to our shared community, whether that be through the workplace, schools, neighbourhood centres or sharing culinary or cultural experiences.
One fantastic example is the work of the Launceston Nepali Cricket Club, which, through a combined community effort, has found a new home ground at Brooks High School and is now playing A grade in the Tasmanian Cricket League for the first time. I'm proud to support this emerging club, with its vision and drive. Members of the club are so appreciative of the opportunities that are presented to them through living in a community like Northern Tasmania. It's interesting to note that, according to the 2011 census, there were just 59 Nepalese born residents living in Mowbray. Today, there are closer to 2,000 Nepalese living throughout Launceston. The work of the Nepalese community underlines the wider migrant story in Northern Tasmania. For generations, we have witnessed the strong work ethic of new Australians in employment or through their own small businesses, as well as a tremendous sense of community that enriches us all.
I'm continually motivated by what migrants bring to a society which can often be decidedly different to that of their home country. A few months ago, I was honoured to be invited by the Multicultural Council of Tasmania to talk with some local migrants to break down any perceived or real barriers that may exist, so they could have their voices heard. Ensuring engagement and participation in all levels of government is important to our democratic process, and it was a valuable experience for me.
Similarly, I've been engaging with members of the Migrant Resource Centre's THRIVE program. I've learned so much from these wonderful young people about the challenges they've faced and their hopes for the future. It's been uplifting to hear about the work they're doing in running school-holiday programs to engage new migrants in the community and tell the stories of the resilience of our Northern Tasmanian migrant communities, particularly during the pandemic. I'd especially like to recognise Obeth and Asiyeh, two members of this group, who so proudly received their citizenship this Australia Day.
I also recently enjoyed spending time with the Women's Friendship Group, primarily involving Hazara women from Afghanistan. I was so inspired by their resilience, sense of grace and hope about life in Australia. In my role as a community representative, I'm continually moved by stories such as those of the Hazara women and the circumstances that have led them to seek a better life. In turn, so many migrants are equally lifted by our democratic process and how they have such open access to members of government at all levels. It's a further way to reflect on our democracy. As Australians, we often enjoy a robust discussion about politics. It can become particularly vigorous through social media commentary—there's no doubt about it. But when we go to the polls, we value and protect our non-violent democratic process and the orderly transition between parliaments, and we should all be very proud of that.
I know that migrants are also so grateful for the support of devoted volunteers who are working in our community to help new Australians settle in Northern Tasmania. I'd encourage others to find the opportunity to speak with migrant communities about what it means to come to Australia and to make them feel welcome. However you chose to mark Australia Day, I ask that everyone reflect on the contribution new Australians have made for generations. They have helped shape who we are and the diverse community to which we all belong.