This past week I have listened to quite a few speeches, the contrast between them could not be starker. It started out with Pauline Hanson's maiden speech in the Senate; nothing new: "swamped by Muslims" … "rising crime" ... "floodgates of immigration."
Like I said, nothing new, but it still left me feeling cold and disheartened.
Thankfully, come Friday, I had the pleasure of being part of the official party at two graduation ceremonies at Western Sydney University. As you would expect in Western Sydney, the crowd of students, family and friends that packed into the auditorium was truly multicultural.
The guest speaker at the first was a man named Talal Yassine, a Muslim.
Talal is Managing Director of Crescent Wealth and Chairman of Quay Capital. He is a former director at PriceWaterhouseCoopers and has worked for Babcock and Brown. He serves as Chairman of the Australian Arab Dialogue and as the Patron of the Crescent Institute. On Australia Day 2010, Talal was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to business and the community through a range of education, health and multicultural organisations.
The second guest speaker was Deng Adut, a refugee.
A former child soldier in Sudan, Deng fled his homeland, arriving in Australia as refugee in 1998. Here, in Western Sydney, he taught himself English and put himself through law school. Deng is now a distinguished defence lawyer and community leader, a fighter for social justice. At the invitation of Premier Mike Baird, Deng gave the 2016 Australia Day Address.
Pauline Hanson's speech to the Senate was a closed mind spruiking closed borders; it was all about fear and exclusion, excluding people like Talal Yassine OAM and Deng Adut.
The speeches by Yassine and Adut were all about open minds and open hearts, full of optimism and opportunity. The cold feeling I had been left with by the Hanson speech was gone, the warmth and infectious optimism of Yassine and Adut was overwhelming.
Each graduation ceremony began with the Australian anthem, young men of Middle-Eastern background stood with their hands on their hearts belting out Advance Australia Fair. In the front row, a young Muslim girl put her heart and soul into it, she never missed a beat. These people are all Australians, and a credit to themselves and our society.
Pauline Hanson and like-minded Australians would do well to spend some time at Western Sydney University, where they would come across Australians of all manner of backgrounds. They would learn a lot. They don't have to enrol to get an education, just look, listen and learn.
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