The Astor Theatre, St Kilda, VIC
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a delight and privilege to join you for this event––not only to view the acclaimed film “Vishama Bhaga”—or “The Other Half”—but especially to be a part of the effort to raise funds for a worthy cause—“Pure Water for All”.
This project is dedicated to preventing chronic kidney disease in Sri Lanka by funding and building reverse osmosis purifier plants in rural Sri Lanka. It is a credit to the Shraddha media network and its partners—the University of Kelaniya Department of Chemistry and Sri Lanka Department of Civil Security—who are working hard to provide clean drinking water for so many Sri Lankans.
I thank the Kelaniya University Alumni Association of Australia for the kind invitation and the wonderful welcome I’ve received today.
I would also like to acknowledge:
- Sri Lankan Consul General to Melbourne, Kapila Fonseka;
- University of Kelaniya’s Vice Chancellor, Professor DM Semasinghe;
- Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Director Sri Lanka Film Corporation, Professor Patrick Rathnayake;
- University of Kelaniya’s Chair of the Chemistry Department, Professor Priyani Paranagama;
- Director of the movie, Lalith Rathnayak;
- Advisor to Shraddha Media channel, Venerable Aludeniye Sobhitha Thero; and
- Sri Lankan actor, Jackson Anthony.
As the Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, it is truly a pleasure to attend this event. I never cease to be impressed by the generosity and compassion that runs deep in the Australian community. And so I am certain this fundraiser will be a great success.
This event is also a reminder of our close international connections and networks—one of the benefits of Australia’s diverse, multicultural community.
Australia owes its accomplishments to the contributions of more than 300 ancestries—from the First Australians to the newest arrivals.
Our harmonious diversity has been a strength for Australia, bringing together cultures, experience, beliefs, and traditions from all over the globe.
Sri Lankan people have been a part of Australia’s success story. The first Sri Lankans most likely immigrated to Australia in the late 1800s, recruited to work in the cane fields of northern Queensland. By Federation, there were around 600 Sri Lankan-born people living in Australia.
But it was not until the late 1960s and 1970s that Sri Lankans began to arrive in Australia in larger numbers.
Today, almost 110,000 Sri-Lankan born people call Australia home, including almost 56,000 living in Victoria. They are among more than 150,000 people in Australia who identify with a Sri Lankan ancestry.
Sri Lankan Australians have achieved success across many fields of endeavour, including business, education, medicine, science, engineering, the arts and sport—enriching our community and our economy.
All of us have heard wonderful stories of migrants achieving great success. Because in Australia what is important is the contribution you make, not where you come from.
We are not defined by race, religion or culture—but by shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and equality of opportunity.
These values have helped to ensure that Australia is one of the most successful multicultural nations in the world. May this continue for many generations to come.
I congratulate the Kelaniya University Alumni Association of Australia for its work to building a close knit alumni community—bringing together alumni and their families in friendship and cultural togetherness. And I thank you for sharing and promoting Sri Lanka’s rich traditions with the wider Australian community.
Your willingness to help others—including lending a hand to people in your ancestral country—is testimony to your community spirit and to the values Australians hold dear.
I wish you every success with this charity event and I hope you enjoy the film.
Thank you for having me here today.