PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA: Yesterday I had the pleasure of celebrating National Harmony Day in my electorate with several hundred members of the local Indian community. The venue was the Sant Nirankari Mission, which is based in Rowville, in the southern part of my electorate. The leaders of the mission, including Reverend Tuli and Manjit Singh, had organised the special day to recognise and celebrate Australia’s achievements in integrating so successfully people from hundreds of different countries and cultures.
The members present at the celebrations, all members of the mission, were great examples of this. Many had been born in India and had come to Australia only in recent years. Yet, like so many new Australians, they had immediately and actively involved themselves in the local community. One small example of this was their contribution to Clean Up Australia Day just a couple of weeks ago, where they had the second or third largest group in Victoria participating in the Clean Up Australia Day activities.
The story of this group is similar to that of so many other migrants to Australia, who come here to seek a better life, to grab the opportunities that Australia presents and to contribute to making our country even better. I myself come from immigrant parents. My parents arrived in Australia just before I was born and established themselves in Pakenham on the eastern outskirts of Melbourne, the last stop on the train line.
Today, 44 per cent of Australians were born overseas or have parents, like mine, who were born overseas. People have come here from almost every country on the planet. Over 200 languages are spoken in addition to our mainstream language, English. I believe that we are the most successful country in the world at accommodating, welcoming and integrating so many people from so many cultures. No other country has done this as well as we have. Our success is in part due to successive government policies. But, more importantly, it is due to two things: the attitude and willingness of new migrants, who come to our shores and seek to contribute to our nation and integrate into our community, and the attitude and willingness of existing Australians who so generously welcome newcomers to our shores.
Our nation is not perfect in this regard—far from it. We must continue to stamp out racism where it exists and we must continue to work to encourage all new Australians to integrate into the community. But on National Harmony Day we rightly focus on our achievements, and I believe that those achievements are second to none.