Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra - 40th Anniversary


Click here to watch Sharon’s speech

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:55): Before I go to the topic of my speech, I associate myself with the comments that the member for Gilmore, my colleague, has made about the importance of the Save our Voices campaign. It is absolutely true, as she said, that we seem to have spent increasing time in our local areas fighting to stop the loss of jobs, whether in our local radio stations, at the ABC, at Fairfax Media, where, sadly, only the other weekend we saw a gathering of journalists, photographers and editorial staff—years and years of experience going out the door, and we certainly do not want to see that happen—or at our local TV stations. So I associate myself with her comments about how important that campaign and the saving of regional voices are. As a strange segue from that, I will share a local story about a local organisation. Hopefully, members like me and the member for Gilmore standing in parliament will not be the only way these local stories get told into the future.

Only the other weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a celebration of the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra 40th anniversary dinner. It was a tremendous event. Many people gathered to fill the room where we celebrated the 40 years of this community organisation. It was a great meal, with a few drinks and lots of catching up with friends. Many of the churches were represented, as were other multicultural organisations that operate in our area, MPs—the state members for Kiama and Keira and me—and the mayors. All came together to recognise what a significantly important organisation this is and what a contribution it has made over 40 years.

It was formerly known as the Illawarra Ethnic Communities Council and has more recently become the MCCI. It was established in 1975 after the disbanding of the good neighbour councils that had previously operated. It originally operated in a small fibro home in Stewart Street; then it relocated to Corrimal Street in Wollongong as it expanded its service offering. It was put together to do very effective advocating and lobbying, in particular around aged care issues for the multicultural community. In 2009, it relocated to the Wollongong CBD—as, again, the suite of services it offered was growing—and changed its name at that time. It has expanded beyond the aged care services that it originally began its advocacy on. It not only has a number of aged care and day care types of activities for people from a wide variety of migrant communities in our region; it also works in important areas with young people, doing a lot of great work with our CALD communities.

The MCCI is governed by a 12-member volunteer management committee, who are all elected. I acknowledge the outstanding work of those committee members and their predecessors over 40 years. They represent a wide variety of cultures. I would like to put on the record of this place the current committee membership—and I know the member for Gilmore knows many of them too: Mr Ken Habak, who is the chairperson of the organisation; a very good friend of mine, George Bartolo, who is the senior vice-chair; Joe Alves, the vice-chair; Sabine Hauth, the secretary; Peter Noveski, the treasurer; and their committee member colleagues Leissa Pitts, Lazo Gorgiev, Nixon Hanna, Rima El Rage, Nadia Sneyd-Miller, Rudi Horvath and Dr Husayn Al. All contribute to such great activities for our local community. The staff team, the employees, are led by the amazing Terrie Leoleos. They are all excellent examples of people who work in the community sector, taking great pride in their work. The organisation is supported by a very large group of dedicated volunteers. Often they will cook fabulous meals for great functions, and it is always a tremendous pleasure to participate with them.

As the organisation celebrate 40 years, I am sure we wish them a happy 40 years to come. We can only hope that future generations inherit this spirit of community dedication that the 40 years of predecessors have demonstrated and the current committee very well represents.