Keeping The Faith
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you on this the 10th anniversary of the Multi-faith Dinner.
Arguably the Multi-Faith Council is the longest running faith advisory body of its type in Australia.
There is no doubt that everyone here this evening – together with all past members – have created something quite unique.
Where else in the world could representatives from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh communities – just to name a few – come together in an atmosphere of respect and goodwill and work through issues of mutual concern?
What an extraordinary achievement.
Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we are gathered. It is on their ancestral lands that this place is built. I pay my respects to their elders both present and past.
Understanding others and being understood.
This simple statement is what makes Victoria such a wonderful place to live.
It also has made the work of the Multi-Faith Council so crucial for all of its ten years.
For a decade you have broken down barriers of fear and misunderstanding – every day.
Your message of tolerance has been clear and emphatic.
It has been as a result of your work that our broader community has gained a better understanding of your cultures and heightened our appreciation of language and faith.
You have contributed to our capacity to celebrate diversity.
One of the things that has resonated with me during my association with the council is the strength of our similarities.
Often, the community narrative is about differences and the things that set people apart… about different customs, different traditions, and different cultures.
There is a lot of talk about who belongs, and judgement suggesting that some people don’t.
Yes we have our differences and we should be proud to belong in a community that increasingly embraces those differences.
But actually our similarities are far stronger.
I think one of our challenges for next year is to focus on how we are the same.
- In the way we value faith
- In the way we value community
- And in the way we celebrate diversity.
There are many things we have in common, and the strength of those ties is often underestimated.
When the future leaders of our faith communities know, respect and understand each other, we have a stronger vision for the future.
A vision that will ensure our tolerant and cohesive multicultural community is safe and secure.
We have a lot to be thankful for…we live in one of the most successful multicultural and multi-faith communities in the world.
We have evolved from a society where – at the end of the Second World War – well over 90 per cent of Victoria’s population was of Anglo-Celtic origins…
We now are a community where over 25 per cent of our people were born overseas while another 25 per cent are the children of migrants.
Victoria’s population is now made up of citizens from 200 countries, who speak 260 languages and dialects and practice more than 135 faiths.
Our state’s prosperity is based on this cultural diversity and inclusiveness, it is something we can be very proud.
It’s why we are a wonderful community.
It’s also why it is universally acknowledged that our ability to welcome people from the four corners of the globe has been one of our great political and social achievements.
We have a lot to be optimistic about in these troubling times.
I am confident, that as a result of the great work undertaken by you – the leaders of our Multi-faith communities – that the values that underpin the Victorian community like:
- acceptance and
- above all else, a commitment to uphold the law – will be maintained.
Before I conclude, I want to especially acknowledge Senior Constable Maha Sukka [Mar-Har SOOKA), who will be appearing as a panel member a little later this evening.
Maha, who is originally from Lebanon, is a Multicultural Liaison Officer in Victoria Police’s Southern Metropolitan Region and is the first Australiasian police officer to wear the hijab.
Maha, who is one of 85 Victorian police members who identify as Muslim, is also the President of the Victoria Police Muslim Association.
For those of you who may be unaware of the existence of the Victoria Police Muslim Association, it was an idea that took seed in 2013 and aims to promote social harmony and cohesion within Victoria Police.
It also aims to raise the profile of Muslim members within the organisation.
The VPMA also provides advice as well as language and cultural advice to non-Muslim police members.
It’s a wonderful initiative that supports and promotes ethnic and religious diversity within Victoria Police.
It’s my pleasure tonight to acknowledge the work of the Association so far…these are the sorts of initiatives that will build a stronger and more inclusive police force into the future.
Finally…please enjoy the festive season and please take a moment to reflect on how lucky we are to be part of the Victorian community.
It is as a result of the commitment of every person in this room to reach out to their neighbour …and your community’s willingness to understand and be understood…that I know we will have a peaceful and happy end to the year.