Mon National Day


What an honour it is to be here with all of you today and to have this opportunity to say a few words!

To begin, I wish to acknowledge Mr Siri Mon Chan, president of the Australia Mon Association, as well as Elder Nai Pe Thein Zar, Elder Nai Bein and Elder Nai Layehtaw Wuvannabhum.

I also wish to acknowledge my colleagues from the ACT Legislative Assembly, Ms Suzanne Orr and Mr Shane Rattenbury, plus Mr John Gunn from Multicultural Youth Services

and Mr Din Pla Hongsa, a new and cherished friend who will be our keynote speaker later this evening.

Tang kun, Din Pla, for inviting me. I also wish to honour each one of you attending here tonight.

Some of you arrived in Australia recently; some of you have called Australia home for a number of years now. Regardless of time, we share similar thoughts and feelings of leaving a place that we once called home and embarking on a new life.

I first came to Australia as a frightened eight-year-old who knew only two

words of English: yes and no.

But I had one important advantage: a strong and determined mother who wanted what was best for her children and who fought long and hard to give us the best of our new home

whilst preserving for us our all-important cultural identity, religious beliefs and traditions.

When I look out on those of you who have come here tonight to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Mon National Day, I see similar strength and determination, and I hope you know how much I love and respect strong and determined people!

As Mon people, you have demonstrated your determination to maintain your rich history,

your language and your cultural identity, both here in your adopted home but also in your homelands, where you have faced centuries of struggle against conquerors and numerous other obstacles, including the banning of your language and publications,

forced assimilation, slave labour and unwilling resettlement.

Many of you have been refugees and economic migrants, having endured the difficulties of refugee camps and other places of retreat, and with great strength and determination,

you have built new lives for yourselves and for your families in the unfamiliar physical and social landscape of Australia.

For those of you born in the camps or here in the welcome embrace of this

nation, the observance of Mon National Day this evening will no doubt help you to

better understand and appreciate your proud history.

Your ancestors founded some of the earliest known civilisations in Southeast

Asia, and the Mon script became the basis for many other written languages in the

region, providing an essential medium for learning and the sharing of knowledge.

In addition, it was through the faithful dedication of Mon monks and scholars that

Theravada Buddhism spread throughout many parts of Southeast Asia,

becoming the dominant faith today in Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

This religion plays a vibrant and important role in the cultural identity of tens

of millions of people, providing them with values and teachings that shape their lives,

their homes and their communities.

Mon refugees first in arrived in Canberra 22 years ago, and today our beautiful and richly multicultural city is home to the largest Mon community in Australia.

Tonight I am grateful to be a part of this celebration, and I am proud to be a friend of the Mon community and people.

It is my sincere wish that the warmth, happiness and unity that we will experience together this evening as we share food and enjoy the planned performances will continue in your hearts and reside in your homes throughout this year and always.

As ACT Shadow Minister both for Multicultural Affairs and for Families, Youth and Community Services, I thank you sincerely for all the personal and collective contributions that you make to our Canberra community and to Australia at large.

Thank you for all that you do to build strong homes and raise happy, successful children.

Thank you for your strength and your determination.

I look forward to the deepening of our friendship over many years.


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