In contrast to previous days, the sun was out and warm, as members of the various community groups were led by Tony Burke, Member for Watson through the streets of Lakemba, in the inner western suburb of Sydney to celebrate multiculturalism on Friday, 31 March.
Walk for Respect 2017 was a double celebration.
It celebrated the benefits from multiculturalism and for the second time, the government’s loss of its bid to weaken the protection under 18c of the Anti Discrimination Act. Thirty one senators voted to keep 18c as opposed to twenty eight wanting to remove the protections.
The event had a festive atmosphere, featuring the colourful walkers’ attire and banners, Chinese lion dancers, drum beats and smiling faces.
Before the Walk, representatives of various communities took turns to read out the “Pledge Against Racist Hate Speech”, as follows.
“I pledge to Support:
• Our Multicultural Community
• Community Harmony, and
• Cultural Respect.
• Hate Speech
• Racism & Bigotry
• Changing Section 18c.”
In his talk before a jubilant crowd gathered at the meeting point prior to the Walk, Tony Burke thanked everybody for participating in the Walk and emphasised that the Walk is not an angry march but a celebration of multiculturalism which has enriched the culture and contributed in many ways to the country.
He said: “…..The proposed change in 18c is not a clever conversation about freedom of speech but it would have meant one thing; that the Parliament of Australia thinks it is okay to increase racial hate speech in this country. And the Parliament of Australia said No. Today, we are not an angry demonstration. Today, we are not a highly partisan demonstration. Today we are a Walk to show the rest of the country the best of modern Australia, and that multicultural Australia and modern Australia are the same thing…. What the Parliament decided last night and what we showed today are that, the voices of hatred will not be the loudest voices of in Australia and that the drum beat of modern multicultural Australia will always ring more loudly.”
A number of Filipino-Australian groups were in the event – Alliance of Philippine Community Organisations [APCO]; Filipino Lesbian and Gay Community [FLAGCOM]; NARRA Coop-Ltd; Philippine Community Council NSW [PCC NSW]; Plaza Filipino; and the Visayan Association of Australia.
The Walk culminated at Parry Park where everyone enjoyed a sausage sizzle and performances on the stage.
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