Thursday, 18 March House of Assembly Page 4757 – 4760
The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (16:49): It is with great pride—and I mean great pride— that I am able to talk today on the South Australian Multicultural Bill. It is a great privilege to be able to do something on behalf of not only my community but also regional South Australia and Australia in particular. I will start off by thanking the SAMEAC Board and Norman and also the members there for their great assistance to me in the last couple of weeks in giving me guidance through the bill and some suggestions, and also to assistant minister Jing Lee in the other house for her briefings to both me and the cross-bench.
The start of multiculturism in Australia began when explorers came to Australia. That was the very start of this nation becoming multicultural because different nationalities were coming in at that particular point.
I want to talk about my community of Port Pirie and the surrounding areas. It is a very multicultural society with many different cultures living in all the communities surrounding Port Pirie and the region. I have and always will state that Port Pirie is the multicultural capital of South Australia and, in some cases, the multicultural capital of Australia. It could be a great example to the rest of the world to learn how various different cultures can live, work and learn from each other’s various cultures—and I mean that quite sincerely—in their behaviour, their attitude, their dedication and also very much the food.
There has been great diversity across my whole life in the last 50 years. When I was attending school, particularly primary school, there was a great division between the Australian-born kids and Italian and Greek children. I will not say what we were calling each other but it was not really good, looking back. When I look back to those days, I can see how great has been the progress our community has made in the years following.
When I was courting my late wife, Arlene, we learnt that there was going to be a pizza place established in Port Pirie. We thought, ‘What a stupid idea,’ because at that stage pizzas were not even on the agenda for our food or our normal diet. How wrong was I? Careful.
Mr Pederick: Ham and pineapple?
The Hon. G.G. BROCK: Ham and pineapple. How wrong was I? The new owners of the pizza place were named Donny and Rocky, and the business—
Mr Pederick: I would have bought you a supreme.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Continue, member for Frome.
The Hon. G.G. BROCK: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your protection. How wrong was I? The new owners of the pizza place were Donny and Rocky, and the business was so popular that you virtually could not get in there at any time at all. Donny would do it the old way: get the pastry, throw it up into the air, the real Italian way of making a pizza. Today, it is entirely different; everything is pre-made and things like that. Donny himself returned to Italy many years ago but Rocky is still in Port Pirie. To this very day, I have not seen anyone make a pizza like they did in those days.
Also at this time, the Greek community was quite large. The Greek community was one of the largest in South Australia if not Australia. The Greek people there had numerous market gardens on the outskirts of Port Pirie at Nelshaby, where they grew every type of vegetable. They were supplying the markets in Adelaide with most of their produce. The east market was one of them, and I can remember very vividly working there as a child to get pocket money. In my situation, that was the only ability I had to get any spending money. My parents were very great parents but with six other siblings there was not much spare money to give us children as pocket money.
We used to go out and pick the peas, the zucchinis, the watermelons, the rockmelons— everything out there. It was absolutely fantastic. I must admit that the amount of money you got in those days per hour was definitely something that should have been looked at, at that stage.
In 1924, the Greek Church of St George in Port Pirie was established. It is the oldest Greek Orthodox Church in South Australia and one of the oldest in Australia. The Greek Orthodox community in Port Pirie has a long and proud history of glorifying God in orthodox worship and of serving their community. Greek Orthodox communities developed in Brisbane, Perth, Port Pirie and Darwin. Beyond any doubt, in all these communities the church was the centre of stability and unity for the new life of migrants in Australia.
In late 2019, the federal government offered some funding to extend its entry-level Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) for the elderly to targeted areas. One such area was Port Pirie and the Mid North. With the blessing of Bishop Silouan of Sinope, the Greek Welfare Centre was successful in securing funding. After delays in receiving the funding, followed by further COVID-19 induced delays, this organisation is finally in a position to starting rolling out their services. These services include not only food but also assistance in homes for those who require it.
Our Italian community is the largest multicultural community in Port Pirie. They emigrated from Molfetta in Italy to endeavour to look for a better life for their families. Port Pirie was a very large part of that immigration and those fishermen came to Port Pirie and went fishing in very, very small wooden boats, sometimes for days, to gather fish for their families who may have been in Port Pirie, as well as to send money back to their families.
I must admit, I have seen some of those boats and they were very, very small and made of wood. They would have on board a portable stove and water, and they would go out for days and cook the fish on the boats. I do not know how they did not actually burn the boat and sink the whole lot. In hindsight, those people would have been pioneers. When we go fishing today, we go out in a power boat; in those days, it was all sails or rowing.
When I look at the museum display in Port Pirie about the Molfetta fishermen—and I encourage anybody who goes there to have a look at it—it is a real eye-opener to understand the struggles that they would have gone through. To remember these brave fishermen, our community celebrates with the annual blessing of the fleet, celebrating Our Lady of Martyrs dedication and also a deb ball for the younger children.
Pre-COVID-19, these occasions would attract nearly 500 people to the ball, and the annual procession the next day would be attended by 3,000 to 4,000 people, with the statue of Our Lady being taken out into the waters for the blessing. I must admit that one of the first things I did when I got together with my partner, Lyn, was that we went out on the boat. She was very scared because it was very choppy and the boat itself was not very big. They loaded the statue onto it.
Lyn was a little bit apprehensive getting on the vessel, but the bishop was there. I said to Lyn, ‘Nothing will happen to us on this vessel; we have the bishop and we have four fathers.’ As it
turned out, we were okay going out there, but the boat kept going around and around in circles because the steering collapsed. We were in the middle of the Port Pirie River trying to get back. We had to get towed back and it was not a good look for the bishop coming back in. We have a new bishop now. We got rid of that one.
Another growing population in our community is the Filipino community. The number of Filipino people living in Port Pirie or making Port Pirie their home is growing dramatically every day. I went across to the Philippines as president of the Rotary Club of Port Pirie, because we have a sister relationship with Dau over there. Their hospitality and their dedication to their beliefs I could not fault. They were absolutely fantastic.
On one occasion we had to climb to the top of a mountain, and it was a big mountain. It was very humid and we struggled to get up there. It probably took us 2½ hours to get to the top. When we got there they offered us all the food they had. Whilst we declined, we had to accept it because it would have been embarrassing to their culture and an insult to them. Certainly, the Filipino people in particular are very hospitable, very loving and very dedicated. The Filipino people in Port Pirie also have their own celebration, the Santo Nino celebration, with a great festival followed by a great food arrangement and traditional dancing by their groups.
We also have various other nationalities living in our community, with people from India, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Romania, Vietnam—and I am going to get told off by my community in Port Pirie because I am sure I have missed quite a few there. As I say, we are a great multicultural community and, everywhere I go, we have no problems whatsoever. With our great diversity in population, we have numerous different churches of different faiths and every church works extremely well for the greater benefit of all our population, irrespective of their nationalities.
When a mosque was first mooted, there were a couple of concerns from some areas about the establishment of a mosque in our community, but this is not a typical mosque. They purchased an old disused building and have made that their mosque. It has been there for five or six years now and there has been no problem whatsoever. The Muslims and others attend there to pray and no-one is ever concerned about the whole thing. I have attended several celebrations with the Muslim community and, along with everyone else in our community, their main focus is a very united and diverse community, looking after everyone who may need some assistance.
If it were not for our overseas doctors, surgeons and other medical fraternity in our community, we as a community would not be where we are today. I have made it quite clear in this house, I have spoken to the federal member, I have written to the federal Minister for Health and also to our health minister, Stephen Wade, that in Port Pirie we have a shortage of doctors. If it were not for the overseas doctors coming in, we would be in diabolical trouble, and other regional areas would be the same. We have dedicated people, they are mixing with the community and they are very good.
I also mention that if it were not for multiculturalism in our city, I would not have met my late wife, Arlene, and have the great privilege and pleasure of two loving daughters and also six wonderful grandchildren from my side of our blended family. When Arlene came to Port Pirie at age 14 from Scotland, she was at a different school from the one I attended. I had just left school. We met at a dance, as we did in those days. I asked her to dance, but I could not understand a word she said. Her Scottish brogue and accent were so broad that I just could not understand one word she said.
So, being the gentleman I am, I declined and said, ‘Excuse me, you come back in a couple of years’ time when you can speak English,’ and moved on to the next one.
The Hon. G.G. BROCK: Members, don’t get excited. But what happened was I learnt how to understand Scottish. Two years down the track, she came back and it was just like a love story. Therefore, I do say that without that happening I do not think I would be in the position I am today, even though we have had lots of tragedy since then. I will forever be thankful for multiculturalism.
Another great aspect of our community is our Aboriginal population, who are a very proud and respected part of our community. I have great respect for their traditions and also their language. I work very closely with Tapari Wellbeing in our community in their work to assist the Aboriginal Confidential and
population. We also have a young lady who attended school with my children, Elaine Crombie, who has achieved great success in the acting arena and who has appeared in many films and was on the front page of The Advertiser this week promoting activities at the Fringe.
Before I came back to Pirie in 1978, I had the opportunity of living in Port Augusta when I was an area manager for BP Australia. There was the German Club there and others I attended and had a great rapport with. I travelled the Far North and had the privilege—and I mean the privilege— of travelling to Mimili, Ernabella Station and all the stations in the north and the APY lands. When you visit these people, you get a real sense of tradition, a real sense of culture and you understand how they live and work.
I am sure the members for Stuart and Giles would be saying the same thing. We learn a great deal from visiting these people and understanding what they are doing and their beliefs. Certainly, I have the greatest admiration for those people and I remember very clearly my trips to Mimili, Ernabella Station, Indulkana and others, sitting around the camp fire with the elders and listening to what they would tell me—without divulging their secrets. That was nearly 45 years ago, but I still remember those days very vividly.
From a personal point of view, I want to point out that one of my doctors is from India and one is from Pakistan. My dentist is from India and also a member of the multicultural board, SAMEAC. Dr Neni has given me plenty of advice and opportunities. He is a great person and a great family person. He always wants to talk politics, but he wants to talk politics when he has the drill in your mouth, so you cannot argue back.
As Mayor of the Port Pirie Regional Council for six years, I had the great privilege—and I think the member for Colton or somebody on the other side mentioned this—of attending citizenship ceremonies. I attended and performed over 50 ceremonies for people becoming Australian citizens. One of the things I stressed to them was that, whatever culture or country they came from, to bring their traditions and their culture to us in Australia and not to forget their own culture. That is something we must remember: we must retain our culture and must never forget it.
At Polish Hill River last Sunday, the member for Waite and I had the opportunity to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the landing of the Polish settlement in South Australia. Polish Hill River, by Sevenhill just outside Clare, was one of the first places Polish immigrants went to. You can imagine them coming to Australia 150 years ago with basically nothing at all—no compasses, no GPS, no radio, nothing. When you look back, that is what would have happened to our early explorers, and it would have been the same for people when they came to Australia, even for the ten-pound Poms, such as my late father-in-law, who came out on at that scheme. Back in the fifties and sixties, it would have been a big move for those people to relocate relocating from their comfortable home to come to Australia, many miles away.
I have some concerns with some of the amendments coming through, but we will talk about that later on. Certainly, I am fully supportive of multiculturalism not only in Port Pirie but in South Australia. I think the world needs to look at Australia as a typical example of how we can all do the right thing, with different cultures living together.