Thank you, Madam Speaker. Whilst late January and early February are still very much summertime in Canberra, in northern Indian and Bangladesh this is the time of year when people celebrate the arrival of spring. This occurs specifically on the fifth day of the lunar month that is called Magh or Magha. This day is also observed as the birthday of the Hindu goddess Saraswati.
I rise today, Madam Speaker, to publicly thank the Canberra Sanatani Sangha for having invited me to join them at an event that they held recently to worship this goddess. The Saraswati Puja was held two Sundays ago at the Flynn Community Hub in my electorate of Ginninderra, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Saraswati is the goddess of learning, knowledge, music, arts, science and technology. Gathering together to worship on her birthday is an opportunity for participants to seek wisdom, artistic and technical skill, and academic excellence.
I think we can all agree, Madam Speaker, that it is a very good thing for a community not only to celebrate learning and wisdom but to hold events and engage in activities specifically designed to strengthen those values in their community and to help children and young people make these values their own.
I have read that many parents will use this day to first introduce their young children to writing – teaching them the alphabet and helping them to inscribe their very first words. I know from my own experience as a mother of five the importance of introducing children to literacy as early as possible because so much other learning depends on being able to read and write.
The evening was filled with skilful performances, rich colours, and fragrant, delicious food – all of which reinforced the importance of having the skills necessary to create beauty. As I celebrated the Saraswasti Puja with my fellow Canberrans, I felt their great faith and love and goodness. I understood – at least in part – the emphasis that their faith places upon academic and artistic excellence. I could see how much their devotion blesses their children – and how much it enhances and enriches this entire nation and especially its capital city.
I wish to extend a special thanks to Dr Ajoy Kar for assisting me in being able to address the attendees in the Bengali Language. I also wish to thank Mr Avijit Sircar, convener of the Canberra Sanatani Sangha, for extending to me his warm welcome.
Lastly, Madam Speaker, I thank all the good families in Canberra who do so much to strengthen our community by strengthening their own families, by teaching their children to seek for and to achieve excellence, and by helping them learn to appreciate beauty and to become the kinds of people who can then create beauty and harmony in their own lives and in the lives of others. We are truly blessed, all of us, to live in such a richly pluralistic society, where we can learn from and be inspired by so many cultures and faith communities.
In the spirit of Saraswati, I sincerely hope that all of us – including those of us who have been given the responsibility to serve the people of Canberra in this Legislative Assembly -- will have our perceptions sharpened, our talents magnified, our wisdom enhanced, and our capabilities increased.