VHP SANSKRIT SCHOOL – Dr GEOFF LEE

Dr GEOFF LEE (Parramatta—Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, and Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans) (15:29): I recognise the great work of the VHP Sanskrit School in New South Wales. Today New South Wales has a robust Hindu community. According to the 2016 census 189,400 people in New South Wales identified as Hindu. Hinduism is one of the most youthful religions in Australia. Some 34 per cent of Hindus are under the age of 14 and 66 per cent are under the age of 34. Hindus have established many temples and celebrate a myriad of Hindu festivals, which I am fortunate to attend in my capacity as both the member for Parramatta and the
multiculturalism Minister. In that respect, on Saturday 17 April I was pleased to join the VHP Sanskrit School—which is part of Vishva Hindu Parishad of Australia, or VHP—at its training day for Sanskrit teachers in Quakers Hill. I saw firsthand the work it does to ensure that generations of Australian children learn ancient Sanskrit and absorb its messages of peace, harmony and inclusiveness.

The VHP Sanskrit School is an integral part of language education in New South Wales. I congratulate the volunteers on their passion, dedication and enthusiasm for teaching the Sanskrit language and culture to the next generation. The VHP Sanskrit School is a community organisation that aims to promote the principles of unity in diversity, social cohesion, multiculturalism, harmony and inclusiveness in Australia. I put on record my concerns about the remarks that were made by Mr David Shoebridge from the other place about the Vishva Hindu Parishad during a recent budget estimates hearing. I have conveyed to him my view that his comments were unhelpful and I have
asked that he reconsider them, noting the undesirable impact they have had on community harmony. The NSW Department of Education and the NSW Police Force have stated that VHP is not an organisation of any concern in this State. New South Wales is one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world. We come from more than 307 ancestries, speak nearly 220 languages and practise nearly 150 religions. That is a lot of diversity. But here is the thing: What makes us a success is that we find unity in our diversity.

Being a multicultural society means that we are connected to the world. We have enshrined in legislation the principles of multiculturalism and we actively live out those principles every day. Our resilience as a multicultural society can be measured by the way we respond to global issues as a unified community. No matter what happens overseas, we must remain united by our common commitment to Australia. In New South Wales we work together and discuss our differences with mutual respect. Overseas events can have a substantial impact on our communities and we recognise that. But the great thing about living in Australia is that we have learned to live alongside each other and to celebrate our many common values and priorities.

From the First Peoples to the newest arrivals, we all have a stake in the future of this land and we all share a vision for the future in which we all stand together, united by our Australian values. New  South Wales is a place of acceptance, opportunity and hope for a better life. At all times, and particularly during times of difficulty, we must come together in support of those shared ideals. It is
part of the great success story of multiculturalism in New South Wales that, despite our differences, we can still live together and support each other in times of need. I congratulate the VHP Sanskrit School as well as VHP National General Secretary and Hindu Dharma Scripture Coordinator Mrs Akila Ramarathinam. I thank all the volunteers for the work they do in the community. Their efforts ensure that our children understand the value of history, language, culture and the eternal messages of peace and harmony, which is so important to our future.