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12 March 1991 - Current

Multicultural Affairs Grants
Page 3557
08 October 2015

Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) — The matter that I wish to raise is for the attention of the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, and it relates to matters that I have raised here in the house on a couple of occasions already, and that is the need for funding and resources to be rolled out for short-term measures under the social cohesion and community resilience fund, for which the government has set aside $25 million over four years.

I understand that the minister is looking at medium and long-term measures, and that is commendable, but I think there is a strong need for short-term measures and resources to be rolled out to address matters which actually are a threat to our social cohesion and resilience. One of the matters that I have raised is a need to fund projects that aid the removal of online hate material and also material online that seeks to recruit and radicalise. Another example — and this is the specific matter that I am raising tonight — has to do with the cancellation of the wine festival in Bendigo as a result of a planned anti-Islam rally, as well as a counter rally, which was anticipated to cause ugly scenes yet again in a potentially violent confrontation between 650 activists on opposing sides.

As a result of the cancellation of the wine festival, it is expected that there will be a cost to the economy of the Bendigo community to the tune of about $500 000 and also significant funds lost in the preparation for the festival, as well as in ticket sales. It seems to me that it ought to be possible under the social cohesion and resilience fund for additional resources to be offered for short-term measures and priorities to the City of Greater Bendigo as well as to the Bendigo police and the business community to help them deal with these challenges and hopefully neutralise the situation. We need to be proactive in trying to find some reconciliation or solutions for these opposing sides, which are causing significant concern to the Bendigo community. I believe they are also stretching resources.

I ask the Minister for Multicultural Affairs to place on the agenda of the task force the need for its urgent consideration of short-term measures involving resources to be rolled out in areas where there are concerns or hotspots and where a response or leadership needs to be provided to the community under the banner of social cohesion and resilience funding.

In particular I think this is a good example of where additional support could be rolled out by the minister and his department, with the assistance of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, to help provide leadership, additional resources and a coordination of efforts across agencies to help resolve matters that are clearly hurting the community. I believe this matter would be best served by a more proactive approach than has been the case in the past.