I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation.
In doing so, I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
I also acknowledge:
∙ His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, Sayedna, Maronite Bishop of Australia.
∙ Mr Joseph Mekary, President, Maronite Catholic Society of Australia, and their hard-working team.
∙ Distinguished guests.
∙ My parliamentary colleagues.
And, of course, Ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great pleasure to be with you all this evening for the Maronite Catholic Society of Australia’s Annual Gala Dinner.
Unfortunately, Premier Dominic Perrottet is unable to be here, but he sends his warmest regards and wishes.
He has asked me to represent him and the NSW Government this evening.
Tonight, we reflect on the wonderful efforts of the Maronite Catholic Society and congratulate you on another successful year.
It is because of the people in this very room, the Maronite community that we have the strong relationships we do today.
Not just between Maronites and the broader community here in NSW, but in Lebanon and around the world.
You protect, preserve and pass on values that enrich the Maronite faith community, as well as communities right across NSW.
These are the same values that I hold dear and wish to pass on to my own children. And values that I know the Premier, Dominic Perrottet, holds dear too.
Importantly, you also encourage younger generations to take pride in their Maronite identity.
And I want to say, this instilled sense of duty to keep your faith and culture alive among younger generations is to be commended.
You are stewards of your faith, your culture and your language.
In doing so, you stay connected as a community.
You stay united as a community.
And you stay strong as a community.
And while you hold what is important close to you, you also share in the values of NSW, which make it the great Multicultural society it is.
You invite everyone in and embrace a willingness to share your identity with us all. In doing so, we create an open dialogue for learning, understanding and collaboration.
And while the Maronite community hold unique qualities, there is also a great deal more that unites us.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have had a long and prosperous relationship with the Maronite community in NSW.
You have always made me feel right at home.
But maybe that’s also because I am married to a Maronite Catholic.
Our wedding—I remember it well.
It was a very small wedding—450 people—most of them from my wife’s side.
The church had pews and pews of Maronites—but only a few Coures.
I truly became an honorary Maronite that day because I ate so much kibbeh and tabbouleh.
I will also never forget my visit to Lebanon in 2006, where I had the honour of visiting St Charbel Monastery—among many others—sharing in your beautiful culture.
Indeed, your hospitality and generosity has left a profound mark on our community here. And your determination to succeed, to contribute, and to give back does not go unnoticed. In fact, these are qualities that typify your community.
Our state has seen devastating bushfires, a global pandemic, and unprecedented floods.
Whether providing relief, assistance or helping victims of international disasters, your overwhelming display of humanity and kindness is deeply valued.
Many of you are all at the heart of what makes our communities great.
And the NSW Government is proud to support and congratulate your outstanding civic spirit.
I recently visited Our Lady Aged Care Centre in Harris Park, where I saw our $7 million investment come to life.
Sayedna—I cannot wait to attend the opening and share yet another delicious meal with you and your colleagues.
The NSW Government is proud tonight to announce further support for the Maronite Community in NSW—Our Premier, Dominic Perrottet, is providing $20,000 towards the worthy programs run by the Maronite Catholic Society.
This funding will ensure that you can deliver cultural events and educational initiatives for the more than 33,000 Maronite Catholics in NSW.
Here in our great state, we have the most successful multicultural society in the world.
And that is because, like many people that want to come to NSW to start a new life, they know that here, they can thrive.
They can thrive because while they see opportunities for themselves, they also see opportunities to give back.
And it is this need—the need to give —that really makes us successful.
Again, it is the universal quality that we all share—no matter who we are, where we come from or what language we speak, we all want to give back.
I cannot overstate how important it is that you continue to preserve and promote your cultures, traditions, faith and language here in NSW.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your support for this valued organisation. And thank you for your support for their worthy aims.
And importantly, thank you again to the Maronite Catholic Society of Australia. You are the glue that helps hold this wonderful faith community together.
And I wish you many more years of achievements.