Speech delivered by the Minister for Multiculturalism and Seniors, Mark Coure, on Monday 24 October at the lighting of the Sydney Opera House

I would like to 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 and present.

I also extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here with us tonight.

I would also like to acknowledge the distinguished guests joining us tonight:

o Consul General of India in Sydney, Mr Manish Gupta
o Chair of the Multicultural NSW Advisory Board, Nick Kaldas
o CEO, Multicultural NSW, Mr Joseph La Posta
o My parliamentary colleagues,

§ Matt Kean MP, Treasurer
§ Victor Dominello, Minister for Customer Service, Digital Government, Small Business, and Fair Trading
§ Damien Tudehope, Minister for Finance and Employee Relations
§ Kevin Conolly MP, Member for Riverstone
§ Steve Kamper, Member for Rockdale
§ Julia Finn, Member for Granville

o Representatives of Diplomatic Missions and Consular Corps
o Heads of New South Wales peak organisations
o And a special acknowledgement to Mr James Taylor, Managing Director of SBS, who has graciously partnered with the Government for tonight’s event—on behalf of the NSW Government and all of us here tonight I want to thank you for your support.

Ladies and gentlemen, due to the severity of the floods that are currently happening throughout our state, the Premier is unable to join us this evening.

As much as I know he was looking forward to joining you all, he is concerned for the welfare of those impacted by the floods and needing to focus on what the NSW Government can do to help them.

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I know, both in the spirit of Diwali and indeed of being Australian our thoughts and our prayers are with those impacted by the floods and to the selfless emergency services personnel working around the clock to protect them.

Ladies and gentlemen—Happy Diwali!

It is a pleasure to be here tonight to share in this amazing cultural celebration with you.

I have to say, I have been looking forward to tonight’s event for a long time.

So much so I have been eagerly counting down the days.

That’s because Diwali represents much of what I truly believe is great about NSW and our multicultural society.

There are very few places you can travel to in the world and find all major cultural events celebrated in one place.

But you can in New South Wales.

In our great state, you can see the vibrancy and colour of these events brighten our city’s streets.

And Diwali is certainly one of these events.

Although, it wouldn’t be possible for us to hold events like tonight without our state’s greatest asset—you, our people.

It is because of you that we can proudly celebrate Diwali and enjoy in all its wonder.

By sharing your culture with us, we too can join the celebration that is Diwali.

Whether it be by exploring local areas that are covered in a sea of lights.

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To attending local events and festivals in our communities.

That brings me to another reason why Diwali is such a great reflection of our society.

While its origins, meaning and significance are born from the history and faiths of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and South East Asia, I believe it also represents a lot of what we stand for right here in NSW.

Good over evil. Light over darkness. Knowledge over ignorance. And, especially, the importance of friendship and family.

All of these are universal values that you can see shared by everyone in NSW.

Another reason I have been looking forward to Diwali is because it brings people together.

We need only look around this room tonight to see that—we share in each other’s cultures.

I truly believe we live in a time where more people are wanting to break down barriers and share in what makes us all unique.

Differences are no longer a point of contention or a means to keep to ourselves.

Rather, it is our differences that are bringing us together.

A healthy and respectful curiosity where we all want to be a part of one another’s culture, or to speak their language or appreciate their faith.

That is why I have been looking forward to tonight’s event.

Because Diwali, by its very nature, encompasses all these things.

Now, I know Diwali is an incredibly special time for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains—a time you spend in reflection, in prayer and with your family and friends.

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And I want to say that I am incredibly honoured that you would all choose to spend tonight here with us to celebrate Diwali.

I think I can safely say that makes us all friends.

Since 2003, the New South Wales Government has been proud to hold annual receptions just like this one to celebrate Diwali.

An opportunity to not only celebrate, but to acknowledge the profound contributions the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain communities make to NSW.

Your communities have been pillars of our multicultural society and our economy and a means for us to strengthen bonds across the world.

As part of our celebrations tonight, the sails of the Sydney Opera House will shine in saffron, the Diwali colour of hope.

A symbol that we cherish our diversity and want to help you celebrate this incredibly significant time for you all.

To all present tonight, we thank you for the immeasurable contributions you make to NSW.

We also thank you for your commitment to our social harmony.

And we thank you for your outstanding community spirit.

Most importantly, we thank you for your support for our multicultural, multifaith society and our peaceful way of life.

Through the lighting of the Sydney Opera House, we allow all of Sydney’s residents to celebrate Diwali in one united community.