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Mr. NINOS KHOSHABA (Smithfield) [6.41 p.m.]: I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to host the Twenty-sixth World Congress of the Assyrian Universal Alliance held at the New South Wales Parliament on Wednesday 20 May 2009. The Assyrian Universal Alliance is an international alliance made up of different sectors of the Assyrian federations and organisations throughout the world. Many of the Assyrian delegates came from the Middle East, Europe and the United States. The congress is important because it gives a chance to Assyrians from all over the world to meet with each other and discuss issues relating to the Assyrian population

Assyrians in Australia have a rich and proud history. Many Assyrians came to Australia from many different countries, including Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Greece, Turkey and Syria. Since the first three Assyrian families arrived in Australia in 1963, the Assyrian community has become well established in this State and is very much a part of the fabric of our society. I know from personal experience of the great contribution the Assyrian community has made to New South Wales, especially to Smithfield, where a significant portion of the Assyrian population resides. As time has passed, the contribution of the Assyrian community has grown significantly in support of local charity events, festivals and sporting clubs. But what makes me proud is the Assyrian community sharing with Australians the same belief in helping their fellow neighbours when they are going through tough times.

Apart from the Assyrian delegation, representatives attended the congress from Federal, State and Local governments, including Premier Nathan Rees, the Hon. Chris Bowen, Federal Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, and Mr Joseph Tripodi, Minister for Finance, to name but a few. The attendance from all levels of government reinforces the significance of the congress to the Assyrian community in Australia and abroad. In addition to Australian government representatives, the congress was fortunate enough to have in attendance His Excellency Ghanim Taha Alshibli, Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq, and His Excellency Mahmoud Movahhedi, Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran, to listen to the concerns of delegates.

I must also acknowledge the following people for their efforts and support to the congress: His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaya, Archbishop of the Assyrian Church of the East in Australia and New Zealand; the Hon. Yonathan Betkolia, Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and Assyrian representative in the Iran Parliament; Carlo Ganjeh, Assyrian Universal Alliance Regional Secretary for America; Shlimon Haddad, Assyrian Universal Alliance Regional Secretary for Europe; Younatan Babeleh, Assyrian Universal Alliance Regional Secretary for Asia; Reverend Ken Joseph, Assyrian Universal Alliance Advisor in Iraq and Washington DC; and Dr Wilson Betmansour, Assyrian Universal Alliance advisor. Special mention must also go to Mr Hermiz Shahen, Mr David David, and Mr Paul Azzo for their efforts in organising and coordinating the Sydney congress. No doubt, the congress was a success and that success derives from the contributions of those three gentlemen.

image002.jpgI would like to bring to the House’s attention some of the Assyrian Universal Alliance’s resolutions with respect to the congress. In accordance with the Assyrian Universal Alliance declaration, the Assyrian Universal Alliance extends its deep appreciation and gratitude to the Australian Government for supporting and assisting the Australian Chapter of the Assyrian Universal Alliance to successfully host the Twenty-sixth World Congress of the Assyrian Universal Alliance. The Assyrian Universal Alliance calls upon Australia for its support for an autonomous region security zone for Assyrian people to be able to resettle and be protected. Finally, as an interim measure, the Assyrian Universal Alliance requests that the Government of Australia provide economic, educational and medical assistance to the Assyrian refugees of Iraq currently living in impoverished and disadvantaged circumstances in various countries outside Iraq.
I have been told of many stories of Assyrian people being persecuted in Iraq. I commend the Assyrian Universal Alliance for its active lobbying of the three levels of government for a better life for Assyrians in Australia and all over the world. The above resolutions reinforce their points and are something we should really consider as we all have an obligation to ensure that the human rights of everyone are protected. I would also like to acknowledge and thank the many other Assyrian groups and community leaders that have worked tirelessly to ensure the Assyrian community is well represented. Given the attendance at the recent congress, I am sure word will spread about the importance of this event and the contribution it makes to the Assyrian community not only in Australia but also throughout the world. I will continue to work closely with the Assyrian community in ensuring that the Assyrian culture and traditions are recognised and well respected in New South Wales. Finally, I would like to thank all my parliamentary colleagues who attended and support the congress.

Ms LYLEA McMAHON (Shellharbour—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.44 p.m.]: I thank the member for Smithfield for bringing this important issue to the attention of the House. I particularly note the contribution of the Assyrian community to the city of Fairfield. For over 40 years the Assyrian community has contributed to the health and diverse multicultural lifestyle of Fairfield. I appreciate that the member for Smithfield is committed to working with the community and played an important role in the success of the congress hosted at New South Wales Parliament on 20 May 2009 I congratulate him.