Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 August 2021


Queensland Olympic and Paralympic Games, Bol, Mr Nagmeldin (Peter), Independence of the Republic of South Sudan

8:31 pm

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Let me at the outset note how wonderful it is that Brisbane has secured the Olympics for the year 2032. I pay tribute to my great friend Graham Quirk, former Lord Mayor of Brisbane and probably the leading visionary in terms of identifying this opportunity, after Brisbane staged the G20 conference, to keep Brisbane on the world map. I pay tribute to Graham Quirk and to the current Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Adrian Schrinner, as well as to my good friend Ted O'Brien MP, the member for Fairfax, for all of the work he's done behind the scenes. I'm very confident, as we go through this process, that all three levels of government, whatever their political persuasion—at local level, state level and federal level—will work cooperatively to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity. Someone we've seen take advantage of a fantastic opportunity is Mr Peter Bol, who is in the 800 metres final at 10.05 pm tomorrow. This is the first time since 1968 that Australia has had a finalist in the 800 metres at the Olympics.

Peter Bol's story is just so Australian. He came to this country as a young man, as a refugee. Like refugees who came to this country from Vietnam, from Hungary, from the Baltic states, from all parts of the world, he and his family came to Australia to make a life for themselves. As Peter says, 'We came to Australia for the obvious reason. Australia is one of the best countries in the world. I've been around a few countries, and Australia is the best country to be in, so my family definitely made the right choice.' Peter's mother is from a Sudanese background and his father also has a Sudanese background, but came from that part of Sudan which has become South Sudan. They fled Sudan during the civil war and found their way to Australia. I congratulate Peter on his success so far at the Olympics and will certainly be cheering for him tomorrow night.

Peter's success made me reflect on an ecumenical service I attended on 10 July this year to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. That ecumenical service took place at Saint Paul's Catholic Church Woodridge, south of Brisbane. Madam Acting Deputy President, I'm sure you can remember the scenes in 2011 when thousands of South Sudanese living in Australia voted in that historic referendum which ultimately led to independence for the Republic of South Sudan. We should remember the efforts that the Australian government went to in order to ensure that those people had an opportunity to vote in the referendum. In fact, there were above 10,000 people who voted in that referendum in Australia. The greatest number of people outside of Africa who voted in that referendum voted in Australia. Some of those people were in attendance at the ecumenical service on 10 July.

Firstly, I congratulate Mr Sebit Rambang, the acting president of the South Sudanese Community Association of Queensland Inc, for his efforts in terms of organising that ecumenical service. He's one of the new generation of leaders coming up through these communities. Mr Sebit Rambang is a wonderful, confident young man, and I really pay congratulations to him for stepping up to lead this association during these difficult times. He'd had a number of events cancelled due to COVID-19 lockdowns, but he persevered. Certainly, this ecumenical service commemorating the independence of the Republic of South Sudan was a huge success. I congratulate Mr Sebit Rambang. He's an outstanding young Australian.

The service was led by a Reverend Andrew Oyet. Also contributing during the course of the service were Reverend Kennedy Kanyi of Logan Grace Baptist Church and Father Stephen Kumyangi of the Upper Mount Gravatt Wishart Catholic parish. There was strength and inspiration in each of the sermons given that day. It was quite moving. I also note that my good friend Pastor Moses Leth was in attendance. Pastor Leth is another great community leader in the Australian South Sudanese community. He teaches language and culture to young girls and boys of South Sudanese ethnicity.

After the service, those of us in attendance proceeded outside to gather around an olive tree that was planted 10 years ago at the St Paul's parish to commemorate the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. I congratulate that initiative, undertaken by Mr Gabriel Ukono with the blessing of Woodridge St Paul's parish priest Father David Batey. We stood around that tree and reflected on the 10 years of independence of the Republic of South Sudan.

After that commemoration, there were many highlights on that day, but one of the highlights was video tributes, which were given by a lot of the members of the community. A lot of the young members of the Australian South Sudanese community outlined their aspirations for the independent Republic of South Sudan, which has been going through a period of great instability, which is felt keenly by the community here in Australia. They also outlined their aspirations as young Australians, in terms of how they want to contribute to our beautiful country and take advantage of all the opportunities that they have by living in our country. It was quite touching and heartwarming to hear their aspirations, their goals and their objectives, and to hear how they want to contribute to our society.

All the members of the Australian South Sudanese community, and also all the members of the greater Australian community, one and all, united, will be cheering Peter Bol when he runs in the 800-metre final tomorrow night. He'll be running with the best wishes of everyone in our beautiful country.


No comments