Communities assured of ministers’ support

15456521.jpgBY JENNA DAROCZY
Power pair: McMahon MP Chris Bowen, the Immigration Minister, right, and Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd meet people from the Assyrian, Chaldean and Mandaen communities. Picture: Wesley Lonergan
FAIRFIELD’S Assyrian, Chaldean and Mandaen communities met Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Thursday.

They discussed the safety and security of Christian minorities in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Mr Bowen hosted Mr Rudd just hours before Mr Rudd flew to Hawaii for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit.

Speaking exclusively to the Champion, Mr Rudd said he worked closely with Mr Bowen to ensure contributions to the United Nations were directed appropriately.

“Australia is one of the top donors to local UN projects, and watching how that is spent will be among the questions Chris [Bowen] will pose when he’s in Geneva later this year,” Mr Rudd said.

“We will be asking about what is being done for the Christian minorities in the Middle East, and what more can be done.

“I write the cheques for our contribution to the UN, and when you write the cheques it helps to be direct about your expectations.”

Mr Rudd took questions from members of local groups, including June Jako, president of the Assyrian Aid Society of Australia.

“We support 30 to 40 schools in Iraq where students are taught the mother language and given a future,” she said.

“We’ve recently received NGO [non-government organisation] status from the United Nations and we hope this will strengthen our ability to help our brothers and sisters.”

Dr Amad Mtashar of the Australian Mandaen Community Cultural Association presented Mr Rudd with a report on the status and needs of Mandaens outside Australia.

“Since the collapse of the regime [in Iraq] and the events of 2004, things have got worse, not better, for our people,” he said.

“They do not want to leave their homeland, but it is like living inside a huge prison.

“We want to know what Australia is doing to help our people.”

Mr Rudd said hearing from communities in Australia with strong ties to their home countries was invaluable.

“Stability in the home countries of our residents affects the stability of all countries, so I meet with many communities in Australia to work towards that,” he said.