Australian Multicultural Council Launched

August 22, 2011 by J-Wire Staff
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Peter Wertheim, the executive director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, was in Canberra today for the launch of the Australian Multicultural Council of which he is a member. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard was the keynote speaker.

J-Wire publishes her address in full:


Prime Minister Julia Gillard

“I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and in a spirit of reconciliation pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I also acknowledge my colleagues: Chris Bowen, Minister for Immigration & Citizenship, Senator Kate Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and other parliamentary colleagues here today.

Andrew Metcalfe, Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Judge Rauf Soulio, Chair of the new Australian Multicultural Council, the members of the Council and Dr Helen Szoke, Race Discrimination Commissioner.

I also see my dear old friend Laurie Ferguson, who began this process more than two years ago, and who should be very proud today.

But most of all, I want to acknowledge the many people here who have worked so hard for so long toward this moment.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard with the Council. Peter Wertheim is on the PM's left 

I’m standing before you today because of the brave decision my parents made in 1966 to migrate to Australia.

 I arrived here, aged four, the guest of a generous nation.

Being British, it was easier for my parents than for many others.

But without higher education, obtaining even their moderate level of prosperity involved a lot of hard work.

I think that’s why, in my first speech as Prime Minister, I said: ‘I believe in a Government that rewards those who work the hardest, not those who complain the loudest.

I believe in a Government that rewards those who, day in and day out, work in our factories and on our farms, in our mines and in our mills, in our classrooms and in our hospitals, that rewards that hard work, decency and effort.

The people who play by the rules, set their alarms early, get their kids off to school, stand by their neighbours and love their country.’

Because those are the values my migrant parents taught me.

That everyone is equal and worthy of respect.

That it’s wrong to view yourself as better than the person who waits on you in a restaurant. In fact, I used to be the person who served tables in a restaurant.

The Prime Minister greets children from multicultural backgrounds

And with that value of respect, my migrant parents gave to me two unshakeable beliefs.

First, the importance of hard work; the obligation that we all owe to ourselves and others, to earn our keep and do our best.

Second, the transformative power of education.

 Education is the route to opportunity and self improvement; in today’s Australia more so than ever.

And while my parents didn’t say it, their life stories are testament to the power of the saying ‘fortune favours the brave’.

The future is to be seized and shaped, not something to be scared of.

Bringing these beliefs and values to the role of Prime Minister has shaped my determination to lead the work we must do together to keep our economy strong today and modernise it for tomorrow.

So that we can be a nation that truly provides opportunity for all and makes sure no one gets left behind.

Belief in equality stands proudly at the heart of this country’s character.

Here, we believe that each person deserves acceptance for their contribution, not being judged for the circumstances of their past.

And in building a nation, we’ve developed a work ethic that’s about putting in your fair share.

You have a go, you earn the fair go.

 I am determined this ethos will guide us as we live in days of transition and contradiction.

We live in an economy that is the envy of the world and in a nation perfectly placed to realise the economic prosperity that will flow from the Asia Pacific Century.

Yet we also live in an economy that is multi-speed, a patchwork, in which some industries and areas feel the reward for their hard work, while others feel as a burden the high Australian dollar and new competitive pressures.

So as a nation we are witnessing some employers cry out that they cannot find enough workers at the same time as others lay workers off.

As I lead our nation during these days of change I am determined that we will use growth to maximise opportunity for Australians.

And I am determined we will not leave behind those who live and work in regions and industries feeling the strain.

And as we build economic inclusion, ensuring we don’t leave Australians behind as our economy changes, I am determined that we continue to build social inclusion.

 Because when I think of the Aussies who “play by the rules, set their alarms early, get their kids off to school, stand by their neighbours and love their country”, when I think of Aussies whose lives are marked by hard work and education and respect, I inevitably think of the migrant experience.

I think of our multicultural Australia.

 Because from Phillip and Bennelong, to convicts and freemen, to pastoralists and small holders, as diggers, on the goldfields, in trench or jungle.

Australians have a proud history.

A proud history of overcoming difference, of finding common ground.

Through all these long years, our people have stuck together: as friends, as neighbours, as citizens, as Australians.

It’s never been perfect – but no people in the world have done so well.

 Multiculturalism is the word that we use to capture our love of the things that bind us together and our respect for the diversity that enriches us.

A concept caught so well by the words school children sing: “We are one but we are many.”

A fierce determination that we share opportunity and we don’t leave any one behind.

So today, I am very proud to launch the Australian Multicultural Council.


Peter Wertheim

The Council will be ably chaired, I know, by Judge Rauf Soulio.

I’ve greatly valued Rauf’s advice and counsel in his previous roles and I look forward to a continuation of that fine community service as Council Chair.

I know Rauf will find in Gail Ker a very sound deputy.

And the other members of the Council, Ms Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Dr Tanveer Ahmed, Dr Hass Dellal, Ms Carmel Guerra, Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Mr Peter Wertheim, Prof Samina Yasmeen and Mr Talal Yassine are strong and vibrant voices all.

The council will also benefit from the advice of two ex officio members: Andrew Metcalfe, Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and  Dr Helen Szoke, who has recently been appointed Race Discrimination Commissioner.

The new Council will play a key role in advising me and the Government I lead.

It will not just advise the Government on multicultural affairs, though this is vital.

It will take a formal role in a strengthened access and equity strategy, play a research advisory role for public policy and lead cultural diversity celebrations and Harmony Day activities.

Our new Council will ensure multiculturalism lives in the heart of government.

 And today, I’m also delighted to announce that the Council will also implement a People of Australia Ambassadors’ program.

These Ambassadors will be local champions for the values we share in our multicultural Australia, and any Australian can nominate a person who they think should be an Ambassador.

This is our way of recognising that multiculturalism really lives because of the millions of Australians who every day make sure they smile to welcome the new arrived family on that first day at school.

Who take the time to understand their neighbours’ culture or make a point of teaching their children that putting out a hand in friendship is always better than repeating ugly labels.

These Ambassadors and the Council act as the stewards of the values we share and make our country, our people, stronger for the future.

As Australians, we offer opportunity to all, we ask responsibility from all.

Give a chance, take a chance.

It’s the only way it can work.

It’s the way it has worked.

Opportunities seized, responsibilities embraced.

The people who have come here, the people we have become, makes us who we are.

Australians, together.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Dr Danny Lamm said:

The President of the ECAJ Dr Danny Lamm welcomed the announcement on Monday by the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Julia Gillard MP of the appointment of the Executive Director of the ECAJ, Peter Wertheim AM, to the newly-established Australian Multicultural Council (AMC). “This is a truly prestigious appointment, and it demonstrates the Federal government’s high regard for the Jewish community, the ECAJ and Peter personally”, Dr Lamm said.  “All members of the Council were appointed on merit after a stringent selection process by an independent panel, which interviewed short-listed candidates and made recommendations to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen”.

The AMC’s priorities will be to strengthen the Government’s access and equity strategy, play a research advisory role for public policy, including the National Anti-Racism Strategy, and lead cultural diversity celebrations and Harmony Day activities.

“Peter brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the AMC.  As a Jewish community leader for more than twenty years, and a lawyer for more than thirty years, he agitated for and helped to shape the anti-racial vilification provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act and then acted in some of the land-mark cases that followed”, Dr Lamm said.  “He also well understands the primary role of education and community interaction in preventing and counter-acting racism”.

Dr Lamm commended Minister Chris Bowen and also Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Parliamentary Secretary Kate Lundy “not only for establishing the AMC and for Peter’s appointment to it, but also for their principled and courageous support of a distinctively Australian model of multiculturalism, which emphasises responsibilities as well as rights and affirms the primacy of fundamental Australian values based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law”.

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