Condolence motion – I rise to support the Premier’s condolence motion today. It is truly a terrible thing to be standing here yet again on a condolence motion that has resulted from such terrible terrorist attacks in a country that so many people in the Victorian community come from. Only weeks ago in this place we expressed our sincere sympathy for the people of New Zealand in respect of the mosque attacks in Christchurch.
Such a small amount of time has passed, and here we are again with another devastating act of terrorism. These bombings shattered a relative calm that has existed in Sri Lanka since a long civil war ended 10 years ago and naturally raises fears about ongoing violence in their country.
The Shepparton district is home to a community of people who have come from Sri Lanka. Our electorate has come to represent the Australia of the past and the Australia of the future. We have become one of Victoria’s and Australia’s most diverse regional communities. We speak over 40 languages in our homes by virtue of our very diverse, multicultural population, who have settled from many parts of the world.
The Goulburn Valley Sri Lankan association represents the community that consists of some 60 families, and Dr Suresh Jayasundera, the president of that association, is here in Parliament today representing his community. Dr Jayasundera is very familiar with the sites of several of these bombings, having often gone to church at St Anthony’s Shrine with his mother and family members when visiting, preceded by breakfast at the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo—such happy memories to be so shattered by what happened on Easter weekend. Shepparton is home to many migrants and refugees who have come to make a better life for themselves and their families. Often it is to escape the conflict that exists in their own countries.
Without exception our Shepparton families leave behind friends and families in those countries, and naturally they remain anxious for their wellbeing—and clearly for good reason. Every day in the news cycle we hear of the senseless acts of terrorism taking the lives of innocent bystanders living their daily lives in their own communities. People come to Australia in the hope of avoiding the horrors caused by such acts of destruction. We are not immune from the risk of such acts happening in Australia. We have to stand up and rail against those who would commit such acts of hatred in peaceful communities where people are going about their day-to-day lives.
This Friday in Shepparton our community will gather for a memorial service to honour the lives of those lost. We will gather to pray for those whose lives have been taken from them in the most vulnerable of all places—their place of worship. We will comfort each other in our own communities, we will lay flowers on the steps of the church and we will send our sympathy to those injured, to all those families who lost loved ones and to the government of the country so dreadfully wounded by this act of terrorism.