More than 50 local community leaders attended the Fowler Multicultural Forum at the Vietnamese Community Cultural Centre at Bonnyrigg last night, July 23.
Federal Member for Fowler, Chris Hayes joined a panel of three prominent speakers, Dr Thang Ha, President of the Vietnamese Community in NSW; Carmen Lazar OAM, Manager of the Assyrian Resource Centre; and Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Race Discrimination Commissioner to address matters concerning local ethnic communities.
Community representatives identified a range of issues, including Federal Budget cuts to various multicultural programs, SBS and settlement services, as well as, the abolition of non-contributory parent visas, as detrimentally impacting on the local community.
However, the issue of most concern was the proposed changes by the Abbott Government to the Racial Discrimination Act. Section 18C of the Act makes it illegal for someone to do a public act, which is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person on the basis of their race. The forum heard that the Government proposed to significantly water down these protections against racist, hate speech.
Mr Hayes told the forum that multiculturalism worked in Australia because we were committed to making it work and supporting the values underpinning multiculturalism.
He also questioned the message it would send to the community, if the Government weakened its protections against racism and bigotry.
“Many community leaders had this opportunity to come together to discuss all our concerns. We would like Australia to be a land of opportunity, be a community service provider, be a foundation for learning and be advance into the future,” said Dr Ha.