Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to speak on the Multicultural Victoria Bill 2011. I begin by congratulating the minister on his terrific work in this area. Since he hit the ground running after the November election he has done nothing but embrace multiculturalism in Victoria. He has not stopped, and I am sure all the various multicultural groups in Victoria are very grateful for the work the minister is doing.
We have heard from members on both sides of the house about the work they have been doing in their various electorates.
It is important that we embrace this issue, and this bill goes to extending that work. The bill’s broad purpose is to establish the principles of multiculturalism, to establish the multicultural commission and to establish regional advisory councils. This particularly interests me. The eight regional advisory councils the bill provides for will mean that people will be represented. It takes a very holistic approach to encompass multiculturalism right around Victoria. The bill also establishes proper reporting requirements for government departments in relation to service delivery. This is important. If we are serious about this, which this side of the house is, we need to ensure that all the mechanisms are in place. This bill goes far in addressing this.
This government is very much about taking a whole-of-government approach. It is taking a whole-of-government approach to multiculturalism to best serve the communities which make up this wonderful state.
The bill demonstrates that this government completely understands and embraces multiculturalism by its commitment to promoting full participation of diverse communities in Victorian life.
We have heard from a number of members about specific things that happen in their electorates and that they embrace. My electorate is no different. It has a large number of residents from Russian, Indian, Chinese and South African backgrounds and a large Jewish community. Because of this, Caulfield residents know first and foremost the benefits of multiculturalism and work strongly with the government to strengthen these magnificent institutions. In fact a current commissioner of the Victorian Multicultural Commission is from my area.
This bill takes the party-political process out of multiculturalism.
It focuses on what the intent is: to embrace; to be holistic; and to not play party politics, which I am sure is not what the multicultural commission was ever intended to do. What was intended with its set-up was to help people, to embrace people and to get people to share their cultures and their diverse mix. That is the intent — to share the love.
This government is listening to the voice of the community, not the voice of government. That is what we need to be thinking about. It is about what people at the grassroots think, not what the government thinks or what the previous government thought when it was running in the race. We have taken all that away and are focusing on embracing people and on sharing things in a diverse manner.
I would like to point out a recent controversy that happened in my electorate of Caulfield to show how multiculturalism can be embraced, which, I add, it is under the current minister.
We have a community house in Alma Road that is designed to facilitate a number of activities. Recently on Friday nights a Muslim prayer group had operated. A number of people, many of whom were from outside the Caulfield electorate, objected to the Muslim prayer group operating. Due to multiculturalism being embraced through my area, six rabbis wrote and published a letter, which states:
[blockquote]As religious leaders in keeping with Jewish tradition, we condemn all forms of racism and promote religious tolerance and harmony.[/blockquote]
As a result of that, the prayer group now exists. In the heart of Caulfield, over 30 per cent of which is made up of the Jewish community, there is a Muslim prayer group as well. We in our electorate certainly embrace multiculturalism.
The terrific work our minister will continue to do is quite evident. Only last week the minister came to the electorate to hand out some well-deserved cheques to a number of great local organisations, including Italians and Greeks. He was Father Christmas. People were lining up to receive money. It was not big money, I point out, just the small amounts that make a difference and allow community organisations to go out and do things. They were not like the Labor Party’s cheques, because those had politics tied alongside them. We did not have any politics in ours; they were purely about the good work the local communities do. That is the way we intend to run our commission. We intend to take the politics out and put the community back into multiculturalism. That is what we intend to do.
I want to finish by drawing the attention of the house to a Malaysian-born Chinese woman named Marion Lau who 42 years ago moved to Australia as a young migrant. Last month Marion, who is a resident of Caulfield, was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women by the Minister for Women’s Affairs. Marion was given this honour for her long history of working with migrant women and her work with the Chinese community, the people of Victoria and the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, of which she was the first chair. She is one of the people who have made a significant contribution to the state and, I am proud to say, a significant contribution to my electorate of Caulfield.
The residents of Victoria and the people of Caulfield need no convincing about the benefits of multiculturalism. This is a concept of society which has forever strengthened our state and my local community. I am proud to support a bill which demonstrates our commitment to multiculturalism and to the diverse past, present and future of the state of Victoria. I commend the bill to the house.