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Minor parties answer to multicultural community

Various minor party and independent candidates vying for the balance of power in the ACT Legislative Assembly introduced themselves and their philosophy towards multiculturalism at the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum online on Tuesday night.

Independent candidate for Murrumbidgee, Fiona Carrick, continued her consistent push for community facilities and planning, saying these spaces were key to community inclusion.

“We have a diverse population, so we need to ensure the voices of all minority groups are heard. I support the multicultural community and believe we are all equal.”

Robert Knight from Canberra Progressives was unavailable, but his party colleague, Peta Swarbrick, stepped in to present the policy platform.

Ms Swarbrick said she was “not a particularly multicultural person” but as a “a believer of intersectionality” she would rely on consultation with the multicultural community.

“We’re by no means experts,” she said. “But I suppose our policy statement on how we can create a better community is really based on some of our other foundation policies around community consultation.

“I’m passionate about the respectful relationships programs and we know that during COVID-19, there was a rise of racism which was really disappointing.

“There’s been a couple of other big topics in the news. Racism exists.”

Independent candidate David Pollard was absent but sent an apology.

Australian Federation Party candidate for Brindabella, Jason Potter, said his party was small, new, and registered nationally and he believed “community division” was one of Canberra’s biggest challenges.

“We’ve consulted with around 50,000 Canberrans via electronic means to develop our policies,” Mr Potter said.

“I believe very firmly in working with people of different cultures, I’ve actually spent a fair bit of time myself overseas working in Cambodia and Mexico helping build homes for people in places of poverty.

“And I know that many families here actually support families back in their country of origin as well.  And that’s something that we’d like to encourage.”

Canberra Progressives candidate for Yerrabi, Bethany Williams, introduced herself as a “first fleet convict Australian” who, while “proud of her heritage”, was prouder of multicultural Australia.

“Canberra Progressives’ values are based on tolerance and respect, empathy and compassion,” she said.

“But what I personally would like to do, as a representative for the Yerrabi electorate … my goal is to eradicate racism. I don’t want to tolerate or see any racism in any way, shape or form.”

Canberra Progressives candidate for Yerrabi, Mike Stelzig, said he came from a period in the 1960s and ‘70s when Australia was “incredibly racist” when Australia had the “white policy”.

“Now, things have improved quite a bit in Australia,” he said.

“In fact, I’d say Australia is probably one of the best multicultural countries on the planet.

“However, we still have little pockets of perceived racism, where for example, if you’d rather have a child at a school, you will have to tick boxes. Are you Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander? What’s your ethnic background? How many languages do you speak at home? How much do you earn?

“And I think these things do contribute to dividing and splitting up the population, rather than looking at what things that we have in common.

“So, I’d like to get rid of those sorts of questions.

“In New South Wales, my child was refused treatment because of the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander box, although she’s Thai, she just happened to look a bit, you know, had a nice suntan.”

For more news stories:

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Canberra’s multicultural voice asks the tough questions

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