Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Illawarra People For Peace

Click here to watch Sharon's speech

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (21:10): Last Friday in my electorate of Wollongong there were about 200 people gathered on the corner of Crown and Kembla streets where Wollongong Town Hall is based. They had come together in order to express their deep concern about the government's proposed cuts to the ABC. There were people of all ages—some of them were well into their retirement years and some of them were very young and still at school. In talking to them I had the opportunity to reflect that the reason the ABC resonates so powerfully with people in our community is, I think, because it tells our stories in a very unique way—and it is a way we are familiar with, because each of our own stories reflects our growing up and our experience of the ABC.

My own earliest memories were of Adventure Island and Mr Squiggle. I well remember enjoying those as a young child and progressing on to episodes of Bellbird, which was always a staple in our household before the news, and the terrifying early black-and-white episodes of Doctor Who, which gave me many a restless night's sleep. As a young adult, I progressed to Countdown—never to be missed—and, as a proud Wollongong girl, The Aunty Jack Show of course featured very significantly in our household. I was having a look at some of the history of Garry McDonald, who of course played one of the key roles in The Aunty Jack Show. There is a story that he first had Norman Gunston as a character in The Aunty Jack Show. Norman was a journalist trying, on behalf of Wollongong, to find a sex scandal!

I think the ABC, for each of us individually, reflects our experience of growing up in Australia—hearing Australian voices, seeing the pool of Australian talent that was developed in the ABC, many of whom went on into the commercial media world. Interwoven through all of that are the profoundly important staples of news, current affairs and sport that have been so significantly covered by the ABC. It is no doubt with a great deal of shock and despair that people see the impacts of the government's announced cuts to the ABC.

I notice my colleague the member for Gilmore has put out a letter that she has written to Mr Scott. It says that she is very concerned that his belt-tightening is going to cause the closure of the Nowra office of the ABC. I share her concern, but I also hope that she takes that concern into her party room. I think that these cuts will have a profound and significant impact on our capacity to tell our stories into the future and I think that is of great concern to all our communities. My thoughts go out to all of those in the ABC who are experiencing a period where they are either hearing or waiting to hear that about their futures—and to the communities that they service.

Another event in my electorate took place on the Thursday evening before that. It was at the St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Wollongong. It was estimated that up to a thousand people had gathered in that place, brought together by the Illawarra People for Peace. This is an association that was created in recent months to establish a commitment to peace and harmony throughout the Illawarra. It is comprised of members from the Lumen Christi Catholic Parishes in Wollongong, the Bilal Mosque in Cringila, the Omar Mosque in Gwynneville and the Church on the Mall in Wollongong; representatives from other faith; and people who are community leaders, like myself and the member for Throsby. They came together to form an organisation to promote peace between people of faith and people no faith. They promote coming together in a harmonious way in our communities.

We had gathered together on the Thursday night at St Francis Xavier's Cathedral for our large community barbeque. There were jumping castles, face painting and families just eating a meal together and having a lovely time. We heard from Father Aloysius Mowe from Jesuit Refugee Service, who is a priest of a Malaysian background who has worked with both Christian and Muslim communities. He told a moving story of his own father's funeral in Malaysia.

It was a wonderful event that I have to commend the organisers for. I look forward to many harmonious events in Wollongong in the future.

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