Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 17, 2023


World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:35): You may not know that next week and indeed every 21 May the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization—known more colloquially as UNESCO—leads the celebration of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. That is quite the mouthful, so what does it all mean? Well, I am glad you asked. Actually, it means quite a lot for right here in South Australia. Why? Well, I am glad you asked that too.

The UN is asking us to recognise and to celebrate the richness of our world's tapestry of diverse cultures; in short, to celebrate multiculturalism, to highlight, to promote, to celebrate what it does in achieving peace among nations and people, but not just peace for peace's sake. We do not need to look far to see that peace brings more than just a place to raise our families. It brings a place for us all to thrive in communities, to grow economically. Conflict based on hate or division brings nothing more than destruction of homes, minds and, at its highest, lives.

The UN cites the figure that 89 per cent—89 per cent—of all current conflicts in the world are occurring in countries with low intercultural dialogue. Clearly, the role that dialogue between cultures can play in promoting understanding, tolerance and social cohesion has never been more important. The UN's former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, once said:

…diversity is a universal value…the peoples of the world are far more united by common fate than they are divided by their separate identities.

I could not agree more. Culture is powerful. It is important. We should celebrate it—all of it. How does this affect us back here in South Australia? An awful thing happened last month. On Thursday 20 April, a racist banner was unfurled during the darkness of night by a masked group of people on a bridge over a major road in Salisbury.

It is not lost on me that 20 April is Adolf Hitler's birthday. Entirely leaving aside one of the most egregious, offensive things about the banner—which was its hateful message—the message of the banner simply does not bear out. The location in which the message was placed is one of the most multicultural in the state. It sits cheek by jowl next to a city synonymous with immigration in Elizabeth and, by a supreme act of irony, it was placed on a footbridge connecting two communities.

Multiculturalism promotes tolerance. Tolerance creates peace. Peace enables not only the survival but the thriving of all cultures. Multiculturalism literally brings us together. I greatly regret that we have seen the sorts of demonstrations, like that in Salisbury, more often in Australia and, indeed, here in our state.

There have been a number of racist incidents recently in our state and in other states—I am sure you are all aware of them. It has never been more clear: we need to be determined to call out and combat the ideology that underlies these offensive and woefully misguided acts. You do not have to share someone's values to live peacefully and respectfully alongside them.

The truth is that we have nothing to fear from cultural, linguistic, religious and racial diversity. The threat we should be wary of is knee-jerk, fearful responses of the ignorant people who think we do. Fearful and hateful demonstrations can and do escalate violence and conflict, violence that we unequivocally do not want to see in our community and conflict that tragically we see in communities around the world.

A lack of intercultural dialogue is a major factor in what enables dangerous ignorance and fearful bigotry to persist. I, along with the Premier, Peter Malinauskas, and almost every member here, proudly signed the South Australian first Multicultural Charter in March this year. I could not be prouder of the Labor member for Playford, and my mate John Fulbrook, who took a strong stance against the hate signs placed in his community by placing one of his own, which said: 'Multiculturalism brings us together.' And he did it not under the cover of darkness with masks, but in a community walk with hundreds of multicultural members of his community.

Like the member for Playford, each of us should model and promote intercultural dialogue in our own lives, and work together on a regular basis. Future generations of South Australians can come of age in a community that not only values but invites diversity of culture, and refuses to tolerate bigotry and hate.