Message of the Chair, Peter Doukas

by Esther Lozano - Tuesday, 4 July 2017

I write this message to you after a very unsettling couple of months. The recent terrorist attacks in our sister cities highlight the turbulent times we live in. Now more than ever we need solidarity if we are to maintain our liberty and security. 

The loss of innocent life by violent extremists reminds us of the conflict between the darkness and the light. However I am somewhat encouraged by the words of the host at one of the Iftar dinners I attended this last month which resonates with me…. 
The answer to all this hatred, is more love. 
Indeed, the only way to fight darkness is with light. What is at stake here is the very fabric of multicultural communities. Our years of successful integration demonstrates how respecting and valuing all communities makes for a stronger society.
The Ethnic Communities’ Council recognises the critical role it plays. Our ongoing engagement with our brothers and sisters from the Islamic faith, as well as the new and emerging communities within our state, will only serve to strengthen multiculturalism across this great nation of ours. 
Encouraging leadership roles in communities most affected by radicalisation is a step away from the darkness and paves a way towards the light. Inspiring leaders can protect positive race relations and community harmony and we must seek these individuals out to become beacons of light!
I am very pleased to see how our multicultural communities in Australian have increased in numbers in the last five years. According to the data released this week by the Census 2016, 1.3 million new migrants have moved to Australia since 2011, which means a rise from 24.6 per cent to 26.3 per cent - more than one in four Australian residents.
This information is exciting and it encourages us to keep working hard for our multicultural communities and a more inclusive society.
I wish all my Muslim brothers and sisters all the best for the conclusion of the Holy month of Ramadan and Eid Mubarak. I encourage our members from the Islamic community to continue their good work of integrating the sanctity of Ifthar dinners with the wider community. Throughout Ramadan, I experienced the privilege of sharing many such dinners representing ECCNSW and I acknowledge the work that Islamic leaders are doing in integrating the wider community into the very personal experience of Ramadan.
Members’ Forum  
At our last Members’ forum meeting held on 15 May 2017, the ECC of NSW became a signatory of the RACISM It STOPS WITH ME CAMPAIGN, which is run by the Human Rights Commission. There are over 362 active organisational supporters of this campaign. We were most pleased to have Dr Tim Soutphommasane at the ECC where he graciously accepted our invitation to address our Members’ forum on the importance of the campaign. More importantly, Tim also outlined the Australian Human Rights Commission role in the area of pluralism and racial vilification surrounding Section 18 C of the Racial Discrimination Act (CTH) and Section 20 D of the NSW Anti-discrimination Act. I am pleased to announce that the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW  is now a signatory to this campaign and we will work more openly towards ending racial vilification in Australia.
 Any member associations who wish to stand against racism can sign up with a similar pledge through the Australian Human Rights Commission. 
The ECC recently made submissions to a Parliamentary Inquiry into Multiculturalism which includes recommendations on how Australia’s Multicultural Policy can be strengthened. Consequently, ECCNSW was invited to give evidence at the Senate Select Committee on Strengthening Multiculturalism where I’ve been asked questions and gave the opportunity to voice concerns.
We have also made a submission about proposed changes to the Australian citizenship test of which we have serious concerns about the proposed English proficiency levels required to complete the test.
Office Renovations
After another month of working in a makeshift office while it was undergoing renovation, I am very pleased to announce that the renovation of the office area is now complete.  Our next stage of refreshing the auditorium will begin shortly and we look forward to welcoming you and your associations into our newly re-opened ECC premises which we hope the Minister for Multiculturalism the Hon Ray Williams will officially open later in 2017. 
The renovations have included a reworking of the internal office as well as a revitalisation of the auditorium area. We trust that these changes will mean that the ECC office is more amenable and accessible to our members and we look forward to hosting you there in the coming months. Membership Renewals
The new financial year’s membership renewals have been sent out to your organisations and should be with you shortly. If anyone has not received their membership renewal forms please contact the office directly and alternative arrangements will be made. 
Notice of the AGM will be sent out in due course and we are looking forward to hosting you at the AGM.
Yours in Multiculturalism,
Peter Doukas