Click here to watch Sharon's speech
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:00): I want to report to the parliament this morning about a great local business in my area. It is called Samaras Restaurant. They have begun a campaign to stamp out racism. This is a family business. It is very well known in our local area and their reputation has spread far and wide for very warm hospitality and absolutely terrific food.
Head Chef, Omar Nemer, posted on the restaurant's Facebook page in early March, and his post was targeted by people posting very negative comments about Muslims and the restaurant. Omar replied to the posts and said:
Can you believe someone would go out of their way to comment on our post and say ' boycott islamic businesses '.
W e are a Muslim owned Restaurant, we sell Halal food, we dont sell alcohol or charge for corkage because it is against our religion to make money off something that is not allowed in islam.
Please like this post to show your support for Samaras and for society as a whole as we are all human.
We love the Illawarra and we love living in Australia, the most amazing country in the world.
#illeatwithyou share your love for food smile emoticon because food is what unites this country
Omar's post and hashtag drew a huge response, all in support, from locals, people across Australia, and indeed people from around the world. Last Wednesday, the restaurant hosted a lunch and invited people to come along and show their support for the campaign to share peace and harmony through food; and it was a great success.
On the same day, my colleague Stephen Jones and I attended a Harmony Day morning tea here in Parliament House and we shared the event on social media in support of Omar's campaign. Then on Saturday, I joined Omar and his family with a large group of locals, including Omar's local AFL team the University Bulldogs, wearing T-shirts with the hashtag #illeatwithyou, for a live cross for the TODAY show. Omar spoke in moving terms of his great appreciation for the community's outpouring of support for his family and their business and he delivered a strong message of peace and harmony through sharing food and hospitality.
It made me proud of all the members of our local area, including Grahame Gould, who helped Omar with the planning. Grahame heads our Lifeline service. Now they are planning an #illeatwithyou festival at Flagstaff Hill in Wollongong in April, and I have no doubt it will be well supported. I simply could not put it better than Omar himself: 'Reject racism. Share peace and harmony and love through food!' I ask my colleagues as they go to local restaurants to maybe share a photo on social media with the hashtag #illeatwithyou and get behind a wonderful campaign.