Harmony Day; International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; National Close the Gap Day - Private Members Statements

Hon. GW ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier) (2.33 pm): Tomorrow marks three important days for my portfolio: Harmony Day, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and National Close the Gap Day. Harmony Day celebrates the diversity and cultures that make Queensland such a great place to live. It is a national day of celebration for anyone who calls Australia home. It is a day to embrace the richness and diversity of all cultures.

People who call Queensland home include traditional owners of the land and also those who have journeyed from near or far to build their lives and futures in our great state. The message of Harmony Day is everybody belongs, and the Queensland government is recognising that as an important part of strengthening our cultural diversity. A key target of the Queensland Plan is to ensure that everyone who makes Queensland their home has employment opportunities and is welcomed into the community.

Harmony Day concludes with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination around the globe. I was proud to join staff from my department to sign up to the ‘Racism. It Stops With Me.’ campaign. This week it was a simple yet powerful way to show that there is no place in our community for racial intolerance and to highlight our cultural respect for one another. Events are happening right across the state for Harmony Day, and I encourage all Queenslanders to take part in an event or to create their own to celebrate our wonderful cultural diversity and embrace contemporary multicultural Australia.

The other significant part for my portfolio is overcoming historic disadvantage which has been suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Many initiatives are underway across different levels of government and others are provided by the non-government sector under the umbrella of Closing the Gap. While some progress has been made in areas like housing, health and education, we can do more; we must do more. Closing the Gap Day is an opportunity for all Australians to reflect upon the plight of our first Australians.

The area I am focusing on is Closing the Gap on employment levels between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Queenslanders. Unemployment rates for Indigenous people are more than three times the mainstream rate. The best way to address historic disadvantage is through economic development, resulting in more cohesive communities where people have jobs and economic opportunity. Through the Queensland Plan, the cultural diversity policy and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander economic participation framework, the Queensland government is implementing initiatives to help all Queenslanders reach their potential and to participate fully in our community where they do belong.