Parliamentary speeches

Bodhi Day, Multicultural Statement

December 08, 2020

For many Buddhists, today, 8 December, is Bodhi Day. Bodhi Day marks the day that Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha. It's a special time when more than half a million Buddhist Australians reflect on the Buddha's universal teachings of peace, service and recognition of common humanity. These are values that we saw in practice this year during the pandemic, when Australians cared for each other and looked after the most vulnerable members of our community. They are the values that saw volunteers from the Quang Minh Buddhist Temple provide more than 900 vegan meals to people struggling in Footscray and Braybrook during the second wave of the virus. They are the values that we saw in response to the devastating Black Summer bushfires, where Buddhist communities generously donated to relief efforts and where Buddhist monks gave free massages to weary Rural Fire Service volunteers and professional firefighters to show their appreciation. They are the values that saw monks evacuated because of the threat of fire at Sunnataram Forest Monastery in New South Wales leaving behind water and food for distressed wildlife.

Bodhi Day also provides us with an opportunity and, indeed, an obligation to acknowledge the many contributions of Buddhist Australians to our country. No doubt, we are richer for them as a nation. So, on behalf of federal Labor, I wish Buddhist Australians a peaceful Bodhi Day.

It has often been observed that Australia is a multicultural nation with monocultural institutions. This is something that I reflect on often as the member for Scullin and as Labor's shadow minister for multicultural affairs. Reflecting on it has led me to be part of producing federal Labor's multicultural statement last week, which I was proud to present together with many caucus colleagues, including the Leader of the Labor Party, the member for Grayndler, and, in particular, the member for Cowan and Senator Raff Ciccone. This statement attempts to advance the argument to ensure that our institutions and all of our work in this place reflects the nation that we are today, not the nation that we once were. It reflects on the budget just delivered by the Morrison government and highlights the many areas where we could do better to support multicultural communities. Unfortunately, there are too many areas in that regard for me to effectively outline in this place, but the statement is intended to do more than reflect on what is going on; it is to provide a basis for us to engage, in this place and the community, in a way that advances the interests of every Australian, to ensure that our policy-making and our public debate appropriately reflect our diversity. I'm so proud that federal Labor has committed to this first multicultural statement. I look forward to working with multicultural communities and my colleagues, including colleagues from other parties, in ensuring that this becomes a regular feature of debate and policy-making in this place.