A discussion about multicultural Australia and how to be a positive voice for social change was held on Wednesday 30 November 2016 at the Female Orphan School, Western Sydney University, Parramatta Campus.
The Masterclass series on contemporary issues affecting Australia and America is organised by The Whitlam Institute in partnership with the United States Consulate General.
The Whitlam Institute within Western Sydney University exists not simply to preserve the legacy of the Hon Gough Whitlam through the Prime Ministerial Collection, but to ensure that his legacy lives through a commitment to bold public policy and social reform and through efforts to nurture an interest in and understanding of democracy.
The panelists at the discussion included Mr Jihad Dib MP, state member for Lakemba and Shadow Minister of Education, Ms Amna Karra-Hassan, Community Engagement Officer from Australian Federal Police and a footy fanatic and Mr Osman Faruqi, News and Politics Editor at Junkee, writer and broadcaster who acted as the moderator during the discussion.
Mr Jihad Dib, of Lebanese origin, started off by acknowledging that the fact he is in Australia today is due to the legacy of Gough Whitlam who abolished the White Australia policy.
“I am not here due to a mistake”, he said, referring to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton who created an uproar by saying that it was a mistake to admit Muslim Lebanese during the early seventies from war-torn Lebanon.
Jihad related of his experiences as a school teacher and then Principal of the Punchbowl Boys High where he worked with passion and a sense of mission to provide hope for a generation of school kids.
Jihad further added “I only know of two groups of Australians, the Aboriginals and the migrants. We are all migrants and the colour of our faith makes us multicultural. This is my nation as anyone else and irrespective of culture, colour or faith, we are all Australians”.
Jihad said that it was a great moment of pleasure when he took his parliamentary oath on the Quran which he has now placed in the Parliament of NSW.
Ms Amna Karra-Hassan described her experience of contributing towards social change as an AFP staff member and a passionate AFL lover.
“How do I use my voice to advocate more change? I know how to use my voice and I change others to raise their voice”, Amna commented.
She related her experience in dealing with television and newspapers specially the Daily Telegraph and how she took the challenge head on by engaging with mainstream media rather than shying away from them.
“I don’t want to be a by-product, I want to the story”, She said.
On being questioned by Osman “Do you think multiculturalism has been attacked in 2016? Jihad replied that he was a bit concerned.
“You always hear those voices in distant. I am a big believer in free speech, but I am a believer in being responsible in free speech”, he said.
“Multiculturalism is part of Australia and you cannot separate the two”, Jihad concluded.
Further questions were asked by the audience. Dr Patrick McInerney commented that people of faith were closed in their bubbles and the challenge was to break those bubbles.
Mr Eric Sidoti, Director of the Whitlam Institute, gave the welcome speech while Mr Selim Ariturk, Public Affairs Officer from the Consulate General of the USA, Sydney gave the vote of thanks to the panellists and the participants.