OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE NATIONAL ETHNIC AND MULTICULTURAL BROADCASTERS’ COUNCIL, 2014 NATIONAL CONFERENCE, DARWIN
SATURDAY, 1 NOVEMBER 2014
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Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land and paying my respects to their elders, both past and present. Thank you Donna for reminding us in your welcome to country address that this was a multicultural land well before 1788, comprising unique people who communicated in many different ways and languages.
Let me also pay tribute to and thank everyone within the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council for your commitment to highlighting the diversity of Australian society and its uniting values and institutions.
It gives me great pleasure to help open this year’s conference and say a few words about the significance of ethnic community broadcasting.
The theme of your conference – The Challenge of Change – is very appropriate. In this age of volatility in nearly every aspect of our society, there remains only one constant: the inevitability of change. The great question for us all as supporters of community broadcasting and for diversity is: how to we shape and respond to that change?
Since 1945, more than 7 million people have travelled to these shores seeking the promise of Australia - a society that is prosperous, free, and instinctively egalitarian.
It is a promise so powerful that no expanse of ocean or barrier of language can weaken its hold on all those who have come to our shores.
Today, one in four of us speak a language other than English at home and some 43 per cent of Australians have at least one parent born overseas.
And what better way to welcome a new Australian than by allocating a piece of their heritage to be prominently displayed on the airwaves of their new home utilising one of the most valuable finite resource – spectrum – which is of course highly valued in both a monetary and non-monetary sense.
This is the value of community broadcasting – it works to combat the debilitating effects of social isolation and provides an indispensable source of information and advice to newly arrived Australians about their rights and responsibilities.
It also offers a medium for different sectors of the community to actively participate in and contribute to our nation's development and enables an eclectic mix of languages, customs and music to be reflected back to all Australians - whether it be the strains of the Greek Bouzouki or Indian sitar, the rhythm of Latin America’s Merengue music or the modernity of Japan’s J-Pop to name a few.
As Australia’s multiculturalism has evolved, so too has community radio widened its focus to include diversity in all of its forms. Today, it produces nearly 2,500 hours of multilingual language programs and broadcasts in over 100 languages.
By bringing a greater understanding of our cultural diversity it has enhanced and broadened the cultural landscape of the nation and, in turn, helped build bridges among all groups.
This year's conference theme of "The Challenge of Change" is also timely given that the challenge to bridge cultural, ethnic and religious differences in Australia is higher than ever before.
Australia's vigour and cohesion rests upon the right for all of us to foster our cultural identity and to receive equal treatment, regardless of race, culture or religion.
Community radio serves as a beacon to this tenet - it breaks down barriers and brings diversity, inclusiveness and social cohesion to the fore.
Let the spirit of community radio be our guide.
A spirit in which people of differing ethnic, cultural and linguistic heritages are able to relate to each other on equal terms.
A spirit in which people are judged by what they say and do and not by what they look like.
And a spirit in which an Australian is not someone who conforms to a particular stereotype but whose citizenship is based upon their commitment to the social and moral values which underpin our society.
Let us all renew our commitment to this spirit in the face of new challenges brought on by technological advancements and globalisation.
Let us all carry forth that great legacy of Australia’s multiculturalism – a nation that recognises and gives voice to its cultural riches and where every citizen, regardless of their background, can enjoy equality of opportunity.
I close by reading a letter written from a listener of community radio who said:
"My husband and I and our children have been here for eight years now and we love Australia, yesterday I heard my own language on the radio and now I know Australia loves me."
This statement sums up the debt that I and countless Australians owe to all those volunteers in community radio, who freely give up their time and energy to ensure we all can revel in an inclusive Australia that is enriched by, and proud of, its diversity.
I extend my sincere thanks to the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council for inviting me to help open this year’s conference and wish you every success for the future.