| November 23, 2016
Diversity in Shepparton
Delivered: Federation Chamber, House of Representatives, 23 November 2016.
I too would like to echo the words of the member for Boothby in relation to the incredible success that we have had in stopping the boats and the humanitarian aspect of that—saving lives at sea.
We know that we still have a lot of work to do in this area. We can see that, sometimes, in these worldwide crises, we move the issue from our local oceans to the Mediterranean.
We still have a worldwide issue, and we have a lot of work that needs to be done. However, it is great to see that we were able to work through this very complex issue.
Everybody knows that, as soon as Australia blinks in relation to relaxing the current laws, the people smugglers will seize every opportunity to kickstart their industry once again.
The better a job we do in protecting our borders, the more humanitarian and generous our legal intake of refugees can be.
It was with great pride that I had the opportunity to speak on the Prime Minister's motion about the right of all Australians to enjoy equal rights and be treated with equal respect regardless of race, colour, creed or origin—and you can throw religion in there or whatever.
Certainly, we are all privileged to live in this country.
Only once people have travelled overseas does the real benefit of growing up in a country like Australia hit home.
To have so many freedoms—to not have to worry about being attacked on the way to school, to not have to worry about being treated as a second-class citizen— is something we take for granted in this country.
We also need to look very carefully at our Indigenous peoples because we have not brought them along in the same way that other countries have been able to do.
You need only look across to New Zealand; they seem to have been able to bring their Maori population along in a different way from what we have been able to do with our Indigenous peoples.
Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley has a very strong cohort of Indigenous people, and there are some significant issues in this area as well.
I am lucky to have very good relationships with Aboriginal community leaders, who are able to enunciate a very clear vision for their people and have created so many positive initiatives within the Goulburn Valley and the Shepparton region.
It is incredibly important that we continue to work with our Aboriginal communities to make sure that they are given every opportunity to pick up the education that most of us take for granted and to look at how we can give them employment opportunities that will change their lives, if we are able to do that.
Today I had the great pleasure of hosting my friend Kevin Sheedy, who was up here spruiking the benefits of a country round of football for next year.
Every time you get Kevin Sheedy on his own, he wants to talk about the Indigenous players that he was able to nurture, teach and encourage—and they repaid him in spades with brilliant football and brilliant careers. He was certainly able to increase the profile of Indigenous Australians within the sport of Australian rules football.
Prior to Kevin Sheedy coming in as a coach in the eighties, we might have had 30 or 40 Indigenous AFL players.
But within a short 20 years we have now had over 350 Indigenous AFL players—and they continue to bedazzle all of us.
Again, that was just one man's passion to bring out their absolute talents.
Getting back to the Murray electorate and, in particular, the Goulburn Valley, it has always had a diverse multicultural break-up and mix.
Growing up there as a school child, I had friends from every different European country.
It did not matter whether they were Greeks, Italians, Macedonians or Albanians.
Many people from European countries who migrated to Australia after the Second World War came directly to Shepparton.
They gave Shepparton a very multicultural feel, even before any of us knew what the word 'multicultural' meant.
That sense has continued to grow; in fact, it is changed quite significantly.
We still have all of those populations but in recent years we have had increased numbers arriving from Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
With the break-up of Yugoslavia, we had more and more arrivals from those European areas.
And in recent years we have people had come from a range of Arabic speaking countries.
There are Iraqis and there are a lot of Afghanis who are trying to find their way in Shepparton.
On a very serious note, Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley have done an awful lot of heavy lifting in relation to resettling refugees.
Governments need to be very careful when they think that they can just plonk people in certain areas because there seem to be a lot of other immigrants and refugees in those areas, it all looks good and we will talk about it in such a positive light.
To a large degree it is positive, but what we need to be very careful of is the issue called secondary migration.
When we bring refugees into Australia we put a cohort of support structures around them, with language skills, housing support and employment support—there is a whole range—but, when those refugees migrate out of the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and decide they want to make Shepparton their home, the secondary migration takes place without the associated supports.
That is where Shepparton is at the moment.
We have had so much secondary migration.
People have moved to the regions because it is cheaper to live there and there is a bigger cohort of refugees of like race, so they feel they can move into those areas and be amongst their own.
But we need to be very cognisant of the continued need to put supports around these people. I would like to push the fact that language is a very serious barrier for enabling people to further assimilate into whatever community they want, but it is an incredibly important part of us being able to welcome these people.
These people will not come into our community groups, our community clubs and our community organisations if they do not have the confidence generated by being able to speak the language.
When talking about being a great country in relation to this, whilst I am incredibly proud of the government's achievements with our borders, we need to be mindful of the damage that is done to individuals after prolonged periods in refugee camps overseas and in offshore detection.
When we bring these people in and we are able to resettle them here, there are still significant issues and support that they need because of the separation from their family, the uncertainty about bridging visas and the uncertainty around temporary protection visas.
Whilst I am incredibly proud of our record and what we have achieved, I am also incredibly aware that there is a real cost to dealing with this problem, and that simply means that we have to be very honest about all the associated issues when it comes to refugees being resettled here.
The Goulburn Valley is an amazingly multicultural environment. It is a beautiful place for food.
We have beautiful people from beautiful parts of the world making this beautiful food.
It is a real awakening when people come to Shepparton.
They would not realise that we have all these amazing cultures and amazing opportunities for greater understanding.
We have a lot of work to do and we need a lot of support.
I am looking forward to the migration committee's work under Jason Wood. We are conducting an inquiry into resettlement.
I want to reaffirm the Prime Minister's motion to the House.