National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council Conference


Thank you Uncle Alan Madden for the welcome to Country. I acknowledge that we are on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and pay my respect to elected past, present and emerging.

Today I'm representing Michelle Rowland, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Communications who is sorry that she can't be here this morning. She sends her best wishes.

Congratulations to everyone involved in community broadcasting for your work in producing over 2,000 hours of multilingual language programs in over 100 languages, every single week.

Your work reaches into the homes and communities of Australia, reaching every corner of our great multicultural nation, every day.

Your work showcases our diversity and celebrates our differences.

I have the enormous privilege of being the first Member of Parliament elected in the new seat of Whitlam, named after the Labor Prime Minister who did so much to promote multiculturalism in Australia.

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was the nation’s first leader to officially remove ‘race’ as a discriminatory immigration criterion, making it easier for non-European migrants to become citizens.

It is a matter of history that when, in 1975 the Whitlam Government wanted to establish a universal health-coverage system for all Australians, research showed that some hundreds of thousands of Australians in Sydney and Melbourne were linguistically isolated and a way needed to be found for government to communicate with them.

This was the impetus that led to the establishment of ethnic radio in Australia through the issue of licences for 2EA in Sydney and 3EA in Melbourne.

‘EA’ stood for ‘Ethnic Australia’ and both stations broadcast for 42 hours per week with 2EA broadcasting in eight different languages, and 3EA broadcasting in seven.

And today, this has grown and developed into a sector in which more than 4000 volunteers from 125 distinct cultural groups create programs in over 108 languages broadcast via 120 radio stations.

You work matters when it comes to fighting stereotyping and discrimination.

This is a task that is never finished.

To do this difficult work, you need to know that your Parliamentary leaders have your back.

At every turn, we must fight this battle again.

We know that words matter. Unkind words hurt. Misleading words make us despair.

To do your work, you need to know that stereotyping and discrimination are being shouted down at the highest level of our civic forums.

Sadly this was not the case this week.

Like all of us in Australian Labor, we were shocked that Prime Minister Turnbull did not rebuke his Immigration Minister for his outrageous comments about past immigration matters.

By contrast, your work encourages groups to be open and to interact, so that all Australians may learn and benefit from one another.

Your work builds a bridge to help recently arrived migrants find their way in the strange new place that we call our home, Australia.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Identity and Representation’.

You will consider how to maintain the principles of visibility, independence, diversity and multiculturalism.

This is important work and I commend you on your efforts to meet the highest standards of civic responsibility in the delivery of broadcasting programs.

One of the most pleasurable duties of a Member of Parliament is to attend the regular citizenship ceremonies that take place in our town halls every week.

It is an enormous privilege to, on behalf of the Government, bestow on these people the gift of Australian citizenship – truly one of the greatest gifts.

We all have a role to play in ensuring our multicultural traditions hold firm.

We welcome our new citizens into a nation we are deeply proud of.

Promoting the values of equality, harmony and mutual respect is sometimes not an easy task.

But these are the values that bind us together as a nation.

You all play an important role in our success in helping us to live these values.

I hope that this conference serves to help you in your work telling the Australian story of optimism, achievement and determination.

Thank you.