Roundtable on Racial Discrimination Protections


The Roundtable on Racial Discrimination Protections I hosted at the Assembly on Friday focused on the Brandis/Bolt changes to the RDA and our protections under ACT law from racial vilification and abuse. Thanks to all who took part including Rod Little Chair of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs, Law Prof. Simon Rice ANU and Harry Oppermann from the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum.

In the Assembly sittings this Wednesday my motion condemning the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act and calling on the ACT to make a submission to the Brandis review by April 30 received tri-partisan support.

The Roundtable urged individuals and organisations to also make submissions to the Brandis review.

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Indigenous employment report

IMG_7468 BerryBourkeLawderWall Indigenous employ report 31-3-14

I am here talking as Chair of the Assembly Committee looking into the ACT Government’s Indigenous Employment Strategy 2011 to 2015.

At the halfway point of the strategy our report recommends changes to recruit, retain and mentor more Indigenous people in the ACT public service. The strategy outlines the benefits to the wider community and Canberra’s Indigenous community of achieving a target of having Indigenous workers comprising at least 2 % of the ACT Public Service by 2015. The committee recommended an increased focus in a number of areas or the target would not be met. I thank my assembly colleagues Yvette Berry, Nicole Lawder and Andrew Wall, witnesses and secretariat staff for their work on the inquiry.

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New sculpture for Civic west

IMG_7443Dr Chris BourkeDr RicardoVarela right edit

“The Encounter” is the latest sculpture installed in Latin American Plaza in west Civic.

The sculpture was donated by the Government of Uruguay and the people of Soriano Province and it joins other works donated by Mexico, Chile and Cuba.

It was a pleasure meeting the charming Uruguayan Ambassador Dr. Ricardo Varela and members of the Uruguayan community in Canberra.

The Encounter by Uruguayan artist Hugo Morales commemorates the 2006 meeting of sculptors in Palmar, in Uruguay’s Soriano Province and is made entirely of discarded steel from the 1982 construction of the Palmar Dam and hydro-electricity scheme.

The sculpture features 19 triangles that represent the home provinces of the sculptors and are encircled by a ring representing Uruguay. The gears, waves and steel cables express Uruguay’s generation and transmission of hydro power.

This work of art created is significant to both Canberra and to Uruguay, given rivers and dams are the reference point for this piece.

The site of Canberra as the national capital was dictated by the availability of water from the Cotter River, in this driest of continents. The damming of river and the hydro electric station was one of the earliest civil works to establish the city.

We are proud to have this sculpture in Canberra to tell a story of a different river system,  the power of rivers, and the part rivers play in the lives of Uruguayans.

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Arthritis Awareness Week

IMG_7396 Arthritis Week launch 24-3-14

The old Canberra Croquet Club was very cosy and out of the rain on Monday for the launch of Arthritis Awareness Week 2014. This year’s theme Time to Move was amply demonstrated by a Tai Chi demonstration on the lawns and physiologist Kirra Rankin taking us all through a few stretches illustrating movement as medicine.

We are living longer, so more people are developing arthritis, and because arthritis is mostly progressive, the longer people live with the condition, the more severe it becomes. Taking steps now to reduce the impact and severity of arthritis is critical.

Visit the Arthritis ACT website: for seminars and tips on managing arthritis, osteoporosis and other musculo-skeletal conditions.



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International Mother Language Day Walk


The inaugural International Mother Language Day Walk on February 21 was a great success with 300 people taking part in the early evening walk around the lake to the celebrations in Kings Park.

The walk started at the international flags on the lake foreshore with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners and the Bangladeshi martyrs who died in 1952 for their mother language Bengali to become their National Language.

In my speech I thanked the Bangladesh community for organising the walk to promote the right of all peoples to speak their mother language.

It is a right people have fought to be recognised internationally and in 1999 the United Nations adopted International Mother Language Day.

I also noted that where once there were hundreds of Indigenous languages spoken in Australia, now, so few remain in active daily use, the result of colonisation, dispossession and repression of Indigenous languages.

I am very proud that this day is now being celebrated so magnificently here in Canberra and I look forward to next year’s event. Canberra is one of the most multicultural and linguistically diverse cities in Australia, and the world, where around 170 languages are spoken in Canberra homes.

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Holi Mela


The Holi Mela celebrations at the Florey Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre last weekend were a vibrant community party with wonderful vegetarian food, music and splashes of brightly coloured powder.

The Florey Hindu temple association is dedicated to promoting “an understanding of the teachings, philosophy and culture of Hindu religion”, fostering religious harmony, promoting universal brotherhood and providing “moral and spiritual support to the needy”.

The annual Holi Mela – Friendship Festival in Commonwealth Park is on again on Saturday 29 March 2014, 11:00 am to 5 pm.

For more news from Canberra’s Indian community go to

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Calvary Birthing Centre

birthe centre2 (3)

A wonderful new option for Belconnen mothers about-to-be; here’s one of the new birthing suites the Chief Minister Katy Gallagher opened last week at Calvary Hospital.

The new Calvary Birth Centre has two birthing suites, an assessment room, administrative space and a ‘common’ area for patient and staff education and a ‘play area’ for children. Last year there were over 1800 births at Calvary and with the new facilities this should rise to over 2000 a year.

The centre was a Labor election commitment costing $850,000 and ongoing costs.


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The new Centenary Obelisk

The last day of the Centenary year was marked by the Chief Minister Katy Gallagher sealing a time capsule within the new centenary obelisk on City Hill. I’m with the obelisk designer Geoff Farquhar-Still who constructed it at Yarralumla Brickworks. The 8.5 meter tall column is covered with images of Canberra. The base is reminiscent of the Canberra Foundation stone laid in 1913 and the column Minister for Home Affairs King O’Malley imagined would be placed on it. The 100 objects inside the time capsule range include messages from the Prime Minister and Chief Minister, a piece from Skywhale and everyday items such as a parking ticket.

The Centenary Column and Time Capsule are gifts from the Canberra CBD Ltd and the Canberra business community.  I hope when the time capsule is opened in a hundred years time City Hill will be a vibrant city park no longer isolated by a ring of through traffic on Vernon Circle.


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Sheffield Shield cricket at Manuka

IMG_7354 (2)Manuka Oval was looking magnificent for the coin toss to start the Sheffield Shield Match between New South Wales Blues and Western Australia Warriors.  Here NSW blues captain Peter Nevill is asking WA captain Adam Voges, winner of the toss what he wants to do. Voges chose to bat but the first innings didn’t go well and WA were all out for 82. NSW won so Manuka is hosting our first Sheffield Shield final from 21 to 25 March and entry is free.

Former test great Justin Langer who captained the PM’s eleven three times at Manuka Oval was there with the WA team. He said the new facilities at Manuka, the results of the latest $6 million upgrade, were fantastic, “an unbelievable improvement”.

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ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body

IMG_7337ATSIEB report Diane Collins Rod LittleSR CB Lynette Goodwin Maurice Walker

The ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body (ATSIEB) handed over its fourth report to government today at a ceremony at the Legislative Assembly. I’m pictured here with Minister Shane Rattenbury receiving the report from the Elected Body members (from left) Diane Collins, Rod Little (chairperson) , Lynette Goodwin and Maurice Walker.

The report is the result of the ATSIEB’s estimates style hearings with government directorates and agencies and community consultations. The report, including recommendations, should be available shortly and the government will prepare its response.


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