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Standing with the Muslim community following the Christchurch terrorist attack

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 2 Apr 2019

It's a humbling privilege to be able to stand here this afternoon to send my love, for my heart to go out, to everyone who is grieving from this hateful, awful attack; to send my love to the friends and the families of those who were so brutally murdered; to send my love to the survivors, who are suffering so much, having survived and their lives having been changed completely forever; to send my love to the wider New Zealand Muslim community, who will be feeling the attacks on the people of their faith in New Zealand; to send my love to the wider New Zealand community, because this was an attack on New Zealanders, on New Zealand soil; to send my love to Muslims in Australia, because Australia and New Zealand are family, and the Muslims in Australia that I have spoken to over the last 2½ weeks feel so deeply the attack on their brothers and sisters in New Zealand; and to send my love to everyone in Australia and New Zealand, because this was an attack on all of us. In fact, it was an attack on our shared humanity and it was an attack that was based in Islamophobia and racism.

What we must learn from this attack is that we must reject that Islamophobia and racism everywhere in society, including in our parliaments. If this is not the time to take stock and to realise what this attack was based on, I don't know what will be. Fear and division are being used as a weapon by right-wing extremists, by the media and even by some politicians, including some sitting in this very chamber, to separate our communities and to fuel the fires of racism and Islamophobia. That hate-filled violence will continue to cost innocent lives unless we can commit ourselves wholeheartedly, completely, to take the hard actions to make sure that it changes. Together we have to unite—unite against hatred, wherever it is, particularly in online forums and where it appears in our communities. We have to tackle extremism in all of its forms. We have to work together and reaffirm and recognise the strength in our diversity, recognise the contribution that people from different cultures, different faiths, different language groups and different countries have made to our society. 

Australia is an incredible success as a multicultural society, and it brings incredible richness to our lives. Whether we are Australians from First Nations people whose ancestors have walked this land for more than 40,000 years or refugees who have walked amongst us for just a few weeks, we need to reaffirm our belief that everyone in Australia is loved, and that they are recognised and supported for who they are. This is our Australia, where people from all over the world have come together to build a peaceful society that celebrates and supports all people for who they are, where we have no tolerance of prejudice and discrimination, and where we build bridges. Where we see those flames of division, we build bridges rather than letting them fester and letting that fear and that division enflame and grow in our society.

I call upon all of us to do everything we can. I was so pleased, in the days and weeks following, to be able to visit mosques, to reach out and to support and to hug and to send my love to my Muslim brothers and sisters. We must all take on doing that. We must be building that completely, to be protecting our vibrant and diverse society and supporting those people, supporting minority groups, listening, taking hate threats seriously and redoubling our efforts to address them. So I'm standing here today, sending my love, standing with Muslim friends, the Muslim community here in Australia, in New Zealand, around the world, during this very difficult time, and I commit to working to ensure that our community is safe and welcoming for everyone.

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