Standing up for Canberra

Building Multicultural Communities Grants - Adjournment (November 2013)

I want to take this opportunity tonight to talk about some of the wonderful multicultural community organisations based in my electorate. In Canberra, as in most electorates, I am sure, there are countless community organisations made up of individuals who give their time, often on a voluntary basis, to enhance our city. I want to talk about a few of those.

The ACT Jewish Community has been operating here in Canberra for over 60 years. As well as running the National Jewish Memorial Centre, which is just a short stroll down Canberra Avenue from Parliament House and well worth a visit, the ACT Jewish Community provides adult education, Hebrew school, youth and social activities, and welfare to Canberra's Jewish community.

The Australian Chinese Culture Exchange and Promotion Association cultivates and promotes understanding and goodwill among Chinese and Australians. Since its establishment in 2001, it has participated in all kinds of festival activities in Canberra, presenting dancing, singing and music instrumental performances.

The Australian Karen Organisation was first formed in 1996 to bring to the attention of the world community the plight of the thousands of Karen refugees that were being driven out of their homes to the Burma-Thai border. Since then, its role has expanded to bring the Karen culture to Australia.

The Bangladeshi Seniors Club do wonderful work with older members of the Bangladeshi community in Canberra. We know that it is so important for people to be connected with their home culture and their home language as they age. People will often revert entirely to their mother tongue in their old age, so organisations such as the Bangladeshi Seniors Club are vital for healthy, happy ageing in a multicultural society like Australia.

The Bengali Cultural Association is a dynamic, notfor-profit organisation serving the Bengali and Indian community in and around Canberra. Its presence for more than a decade has seen it regularly organising events of great significance to Bengalis and Indians, such as Durga Puja, Saraswati Puja, cultural programs and Rabindra Jayanti.

The Bluestar Intercultural Centre was established by a group of young Australian Muslims in 2009 as a platform for bringing people together. Founders of Bluestar saw the need for the Muslim community in Canberra to do more to increase awareness of the community, its religion and culture.

The Burrunju Aboriginal Corporation was established to provide local Indigenous people in the Canberra region with an opportunity to realise their dream of self-determination through the creation of their artworks and music.

The Canberra Islamic Centre's primary aim is to build and maintain a cohesive religious, social, cultural and educational institution that serves the needs of the Muslims of the ACT and region. The centre serves as the focal point for all Muslims in the south of Canberra, providing a place for prayers, education and imam guidance, as well as for festivals and events for the whole community, including a fabulous monthly food bazaar.

The Canberra Swiss Club provides Swiss Canberrans, and those with an interest in all things Swiss, with an entree to Swiss culture. It organises picnics, fondue nights, cooking courses, lake cruises and more.

The Italian Language School provides Italian classes to children aged up to 15, continuing a tradition of Italian community classes which has been ongoing in Canberra since 1969.

The Spanish Speakers Association brings together the many Spanish speakers from across the globe who live here in the Canberra region.

These are a diverse group of organisations who work hard to make Canberra a better, more inclusive place. These organisations have one thing in common: they were successful applicants for funding under the Building Multicultural Communities Program. However, since the change in government, they do not know if they will receive their money. Building Multicultural Communities grants were awarded by the Labor government under proper procedures and were fully funded in the 2013-14 budget. All successful recipients were notified of their successful application for funding and were expecting that funding to be released in September. But all they have heard from the Abbott government since its election is radio silence.

We all know that community organisations like these run on the smell of an oily rag and usually rely on donations. The significance of these grants for them cannot be understated. I ask those opposite: was the Abbott government elected on a policy of cutting funding to community organisations? No, I do not think so, so don't do it. Organisations like the ones I have mentioned empower communities to embrace the benefits of multiculturalism and maintain cohesive and socially inclusive neighbourhoods, and they should have bipartisan support.

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