This evening with His Excellency Izzat Salah Abdulhadi, the Head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific and the Dean of the Arab Ambassadors, presenting retiring members of the federal parliament, Melissa Parke, Alan Griffin, Laurie Ferguson and Jill Hall, with certificates of appreciation for their support and commitment to the self-determination of the Palestinian people. The certificates of appreciation were signed by President Abbas and included was a beautiful piece of pottery from Hebron.
Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (10:01): Harmony Day is celebrated on Monday, 21 March and it coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Harmony Day has been celebrated in Australia since 1999, and it serves as an important reminder that we need to foster an inclusive and respectful Australia, where all Australians feel a sense of belonging and a sense of quality. This year's theme for Harmony Day is 'Our diversity is our strength'. We have worked very hard as a country to build a strong and cohesive multicultural society that is often looked upon as a model of success by other countries. We have been successful in settling people from all over the world, and in turn migrants have helped build this country. We as a community are stronger and better for it.
I did have the opportunity this week in parliament to commemorate Harmony Day and celebrate the theme of 'Our diversity is our strength'. Last night I co-hosted an interfaith dialogue commemorating Harmony Day with my parliamentary colleague and co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Multiculturalism, the member for Macmillan, Mr Russell Broadbent, in conjunction with Religions for Peace and the Canberra Interfaith Forum.
Religions for Peace is a global, community based organisation working for peace across the world and for social and religious cohesion in Australia and globally. The chair of Religions for Peace, Professor Desmond Cahill, was present to address the audience, and I would like to thank Prof Cahill for his efforts in pursuing interfaith tolerance in the Australian society. I also thank to Sue Innes from Religions for Peace for helping to coordinate the event.
The Canberra Interfaith Forum is an association of people from 12 different spiritual traditions in Canberra. The forum supports interfaith activities in Canberra and promotes multicultural harmony in the capital within a formal group setting. The chair of Canberra Interfaith Forum, Mr Dean Sahu Kahn, addressed the audience; and I want to thank Dean for his efforts in the Canberra community.
Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (19:40): In 2015 the Australian government announced the Stronger Communities Program to fund small capital works projects in local communities, matched dollar for dollar or in kind. Funding was set at $300,000 per electorate over a two-year period, with round 1 having commenced in 2015. Grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 are available under the Stronger Communities Program. In partnership with the Hume City Council and Brimbank City Council, my office formed a committee and called for expressions of interest from our local community. My community responded enthusiastically to this program and I am very pleased tonight to announce six community groups—so far—in my electorate who have been successful in the first round. I would like to congratulate these community groups and the projects for which they have received funding.
I would like to begin with the Greenvale Football Club, which received $20,000 to fund the construction and fit-out of its canteen and a new set of public toilets. The Greenvale Football Club is an Australian Rules club operating out of Greenvale Recreation Reserve, and for years it has struggled with the need for a services building, including a storage shed, a canteen, and new public toilets. Congratulations to Greenvale Football Club, especially their president, Mr Bruce Kent, for a much-needed improvement for a very great local club.
The next group I would like to congratulate is the Keilor St Bernard's Athletic Club, which received $10,097 for a high jump facility for Keilor Park. The Keilor St Bernard's Athletic Club is a long-term licensed user of the Keilor Park Athletics Track, along with Keilor Little Athletics and the numerous schools who use the track for school athletics meetings. The club wishes to upgrade the current high jump facility at Keilor Park by introducing an international standard high jump bag and associated equipment. This bag will be available to all users and will provide a safe jumping environment to all athletes—especially the advanced teenagers and senior athletes. I also very much look forward to seeing the new high jump bag in use by the young athletes who use the athletics tracks. Congratulations to the athletics club president, Mr Ian Upton, for submitting a successful grant proposal on behalf of his club.
The next group I want to congratulate is the Keilor Electric Off-Road Car Association, who received $7,000 to build their permanent pit area. The Keilor Electric Off-Road Car Association is located at Keilor Park Recreation Reserve and is a club of about 130 members. Their project will comprise the construction of a sheltered area with a roof that will provide shelter from the weather for participants who enjoy using the track. I am pleased that the association has received funding to develop the track and improve its facilities for its members. Congratulations also to the president, Mark Polistena, and to the entire association on receiving the grant.