14 June, 2023

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (17:54): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that Refugee Week will be celebrated across Australia from Sunday 18 June to Saturday 24 June 2023 and provides a platform to celebrate the positive social and economic contributions made by refugees to Australian society and create a culture of welcome;

2. Notes this year's theme is 'Finding Freedom' which asks us what it means to be free and to reflect on the dangerous journeys that refugees around the world undertake to find safety and freedom in a new home;

3. Congratulates the Australian Migrant Resource Centre for being the successful convener of SA Refugee Week since 2001 and for hosting the annual Youth Poster Awards Exhibition which features posters from primary, secondary, and tertiary students that celebrate the courage, resilience and contributions of people of refugee backgrounds; and

4. Commits to promoting harmony and inclusion in our community and recognises that diversity, multiculturalism and interculturalism are our greatest strengths.

It is my privilege to move this motion to acknowledge the importance of Refugee Week in South Australia. Refugee Week provides an important platform where success stories and positive images of refugees can be promoted by everyone in our community in order to create a culture of welcome throughout the country. Recognising that Australia is a multicultural country, the ultimate aim of the Refugee Week celebration is to create better understanding between different communities and to encourage successful integration, enabling refugees to live in safety and to continue making a valuable contribution to Australia.

According to the Refugee Council of Australia, Australia has welcomed 950,000 refugees and humanitarian entrants since federation. Over many decades, the Australian refugee communities have made a substantial contribution to Australia's culture, identity, economy and society. Refugee Week will commence on Sunday 18 June and finish on Saturday 24 June.

As the longest continuous serving Liberal member of parliament in multicultural affairs, I have had the privilege of getting to know many of our community members with a refugee background and to witness firsthand the contributions they make to enrich our state. I have spoken about the initiative of Refugee Week on numerous occasions in this parliament, and it is a great honour to once again do so this year.

I would like to recognise the strength and resilience of our refugee communities. It is truly a privilege to acknowledge the incredible social, cultural and economic contributions by South Australian refugees. Whether it is through volunteering, developing cultural and linguistically diverse programs and initiatives, inspiring the next generation as role models, representing Australia on the international stage, exemplifying excellence in their chosen field, or starting a small business, the positive impact of South Australians with refugee backgrounds is wide reaching.

The many community leaders from refugee backgrounds understand the difficulties and hardships that refugees face through their own lived experience and therefore they set up associations, charity groups and organisations to advocate for those who are most vulnerable in the community. We ought to be very grateful that these community leaders and individuals constantly stand up to do something positive for refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people. I want to express my thanks to these outstanding leaders and organisations who work tirelessly to deliver important and life-changing programs to help our newest arrivals to regain safety and rebuild their lives in South Australia.

Each year, Refugee Week will choose a specific theme to provide a focal point for events to be hosted by community groups, schools, local government councils, and multicultural organisations across South Australia. Having a theme helps to unite individuals, communities and organisations from diverse backgrounds behind a common cause and inspire us to focus on tangible outcomes that can improve the health and wellbeing of refugee communities. The theme this year for Refugee Week is Finding Freedom.

Australia is a proud democratic country and often Australians take our freedom for granted. As we know, millions of people across the world continue to flee their country of birth through no fault of their own but to escape wars, civil unrest, oppression, persecution and violence in their home countries. The World Population Review has recently reported that there are 32 countries currently at war or in conflict, and the types of conflict vary widely.

While the severity and duration of these conflicts differ, they all have significant impacts on the effect of populations and can result in a high number of casualties as well as humanitarian crises. Thousands have put their lives in danger in search of freedom. They embark on long and often deadly journeys for the sole purpose of finding safety and freedom. Their interpretation of freedom is: the freedom to live, the freedom to love, the freedom to have the opportunity to dream of a better and brighter future. What does it mean to be free?

For refugees, they want to live without the fear of war. They want to see their basic human rights being upheld. They want to live in equality and without the fear of persecution. In 2023, Refugee Week conveners across Australia encourage organisations and individuals to utilise their networks, resources and events to showcase a journey of finding freedom, whether it is through a new home, a new career, finding love or new friendships.

Let us all embrace the theme of Refugee Week and show our compassion to those who have had their freedom taken away from them. Let us take a moment to recognise the resilience and courage of refugees who, despite being through terrible circumstances and atrocities, have overcome the challenges and rebuilt their lives in South Australia.

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the work of the Australian Migrant Resource Centre, which has been the longstanding convenor of SA Refugee Week since 2001. Since its establishment in 1979, AMRC has helped over 150,000 migrants, including those of refugee background, to adjust to life in Australia, to become independent and to develop linkages with local communities.

Each year, AMRC engages with over 100 organisations and community groups through its coordinated calendar of events. I encourage all members to have a look at the impressive calendar of events for 2023. This campaign invites everyone across South Australia to get involved in the many events and activities that are showcased by various multicultural communities and groups across South Australia. I look forward to attending many of these events this year.

These events consist of educational, cultural and fun activities, such as workshops, food and cooking demonstrations, arts and craft, storytelling, sports, music and festivities. Some events will help refugees and newly arrived migrants adjust to new life, such as an employment expo, the New Arrivals Emergency Drill Workshop and the preparation of Australian citizenship sessions. Other events will help the wider community to learn and understand the refugee experience, such as a candlelight vigil, prayer service and story sharing events.

Following the theme of Finding Freedom, I want to thank each and every one who has been working hard to plan, prepare and deliver these uplifting events to build social harmony and social network for our diverse communities to put the past behind them, to exchange stories, goodwill and friendship and to share the joy of living in a country like Australia, a country that offers us all equal opportunity and the freedom to live a fulfilling life.

One of the highlights of Refugee Week is the Youth Poster Awards Exhibition, which is a project that invites all young people in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions to produce a poster that celebrates the theme surrounding the United Nations International Refugee Convention. I have had the privilege to previously launch AMRC's Youth Poster Awards Exhibition when the Liberal Party was in government.

Whether it was in government or in opposition, my passion to support the development of a strong and vibrant multicultural community has remained constant. I look forward to attending the Youth Poster Awards Exhibition again this year and cannot wait to congratulate the inspiring young artists and check out the 2023 award-winning posters.

Refugee Week in South Australia will once again be a time for reflection, for celebration and for showing our appreciation to all participants and stakeholders who have shared their vision of an inclusive society that values cultural diversity. I give special thanks to Eugenia Tsoulis OAM, the retired CEO of AMRC, who has been a trailblazer and champion for Refugee Week for many decades. I would also like to acknowledge Eugenia's outstanding leadership and commitment to refugees, asylum seekers, people with disabilities, the elderly and other migrants during her time at AMRC, which I think is over 30 years of her career.

I would like to thank Ms Mirsia Bunjaku, the new CEO at AMRC; board members; and the AMRC team for continuing the legacy and great work of Eugenia in their dedication to empowering refugees and migrants to thrive in their adapted home. Every refugee who comes to Australia has a story to tell. By providing a platform for these voices, we are able to show how diverse our society is and how much multiculturalism and interculturalism are our greatest strengths.

In my closing remarks, I want to wish everybody a very happy Refugee Week and encourage all honourable members to support the initiatives. I commend the motion.