SPEECH - ADDRESS TO THE AUSTRALIAN MIDDLE EAST MEDIA ANNUAL GALA DINNER - 27 APRIL 2018

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It is my great pleasure to be here representing the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Bill Shorten MP at the Australian Middle East Media’s Annual Gala Dinner this evening.

As Shadow Minister for Communications it is wonderful to be celebrating the Australian Middle East Media, and most importantly, the community that it serves.

Arabic is now the third most spoken Language in Australia, behind English and Mandarin.

Arabic speakers constitute 1.4 percent of the Australian population – which is up by 0.1 percent from the last Census in 2011.

Closer to home, the statistics get even higher. I don’t know about you, but Arabic speakers constitute around 50 per cent of the population of my family!

My husband and his family hail from Lebanon so we are, very proudly, well above the national average for Arabic speakers – as many of you here are too, of course.

When I think about Middle East Media, I think not simply of news or general content in Arabic but of the expression of a rich diversity of views and nuanced perspectives from the people borne of the varied and distinctive nations that comprise what we refer to as the ‘Middle East’.

When I reflect on AME Media, I think of trusted local voices that serve diversity in a number of ways:

  • Voices that serve the diversity of cultures and ethnicities from the Middle Eastern region;
  • Voices that serve the level of media diversity in Australia; and
  • Voices that serve Australia’s multicultural society at large.

The Australian Middle East Media Group is a trusted local voice that provides information about what is happening overseas and what’s happening around the corner.

Australian Middle East Media publications – like the El-Telegraph, Al Anwar, Anoujoum, El Telegraph Weekend and the Middle East Online – inform, educate and entertain hundreds of thousands of Arabic speaking Australians, help maintain culture, language and customs and help to make Australia an even better place to live.

This is important for people who have just arrived in Australia, and for people who have been here for years.

In fact, the Australian Middle East Media newspapers have been produced continuously in Australia since 1970.

For almost fifty years the Australian Middle East Media has been reaching 88 percent of the Arabic speaking market Australia-wide.

We all know that print newspapers currently face challenges in this day and age. Despite this, the Australian Middle East Media newspapers have continued to succeed.

30,000 newspapers are distributed around Australia, with one in three of these being sold in Western Sydney, specifically in the City of Canterbury Bankstown. 

This is a tremendous achievement. 

And with the introduction of ‘The Middle East Online’, this readership will continue to grow and engage with a younger generation of Arabic speaking Australians.

I am of the view that online media is a complement to traditional media, rather than a replacement for it. Just as the advent of Direct-To-Home Satellite TV did not replace the need for local newspapers or domestic television and radio services, nor does online media replace the need for local multicultural and ethnic media.

Traditional media platforms remain vital today, even as new media grows in importance. Pretty much every time I walk into my in-laws house, for example, the Lebanese Radio is on. Each platform has a place; an important role to play for different segments of the community.

Public interest media is not an ‘either/or’ proposition. We don’t need ‘either’ diversity in broadcasting ‘or’ the internet. We need both. We live in an ‘and’ world. We need print ‘and’ broadcast ‘and’ online media. We need local ‘and’ domestic media in language ‘and’ international media in language.  We need Australian Middle Eastern views on Australian events ‘and’ on world events.

The innovative partnership between AME Media and Anoujoum Magazine is a case in point. Here a bi-lingual, multiplatform campaign was run to reach out to Arabic-speaking women between the ages of 18-69 with an important health message about cervical screening. Here the strengths of both the print and the online versions of the Magazine were leveraged and amplified with other online platforms, including Youtube and Facebook, to cross-promote the campaign and engage the readership and community with additional content.  

This is a fantastic achievement for the publishers, the advertisers and the community.

In closing, I’d specifically like to acknowledge and thank the dedicated staff at Australian Middle East Media, who are supported and guided by Remy, Tony and Wally.

Congratulations on yet another successful year in providing media services to Australians of Middle Eastern heritage and to the Australian community as a whole.

Thank you.