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HREOC Website: Isma - Listen

Launch of report of Isma project - National consultations on eliminating prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians

Omeima Sukkarieh
Community Liaison Officer Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

Sydney, 16 June 2004

It's so great to see so many people here today who have come to show their support for the Isma Project. It's overwhelming. Thank you.

The success of the project would never have been possible without the invaluable contribution of so many individuals, community organisations, and government representatives from all over Australia. The list is exhaustive.

A countless number of people have kindly and humbly given this project their precious time, ideas and thoughts, and stories. This summary report, the audio CD, the strategies document, the research paper 'Living with Racism', these are all a tribute to the strength of consultation participants and survey respondents who bravely shared their stories with us, often in the most difficult of times.

I always believed that an understanding heart is everything and cannot be esteemed highly enough. What we came across in the consultations were men, women and children, as young as 9 years old, who not only showed us the true meaning of courage but also determination and understanding. On behalf of the Isma Project team, I can say that I look back with gratitude to all of those who contributed to the success of this project and touched our hearts. This includes the consultation participants from all over Australia who trusted us with their thoughts and experiences and helped break a long silence.

The summary report is but one part of the Isma project. Many more stories and experiences, ideas and suggestions are available on the Commission's website where summaries of the consultations have been posted.

I myself feel privileged to have had the trust and respect afforded to me by people that I have met on the Isma Project journey. The tears, sadness and laughter we shared, were all very precious moments where we never lost hope and always looked forward together.

To mention a few:

  • To all of the organisations and people who hosted consultations, and especially individual community members who opened the doors of their homes to host consultations. And to the CD voice-overs who opened their homes to us. We thank you.
  • The reference group whom Bill has mentioned who have been willing to provide their expertise at all times and on many occasions on such short notice. We also thank you.

  • And we thank the so many more people who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this project what it is today.

  • And to all the dedicated and committed HREOC staff who have supported the team throughout the life of the project, I extend my sincere thanks on behalf of all those who contributed to the success of the Isma project, and on behalf of the Arab and Muslim community in particular, our sincerest appreciation to Meredith Wilkie, Susanna Iuliano, Christine Fougere and, of course and in particular, to Dr Jonas, who I can assure you have all given their heart and soul to ensuring that the voices of the community have been heard.

It is comforting to know that so many people are committed to ensuring that all Australians, regardless of race or religion, are treated equally and fairly, and committed to the value of diversity that is Australia.

At the launch of the project over a year ago, I said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Again I will say that the Isma Project is one step closer to eliminating prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians, through both listening and understanding.

I strongly believe that by engaging in dialogue and presenting the true face of the Australian community we will help to overcome prejudice and misunderstanding.

We all have a role to play. This summary report, the CD, the strategies document and the research paper are what I believe to be a gift to the community that is ready to be unwrapped, with suggestions for future strategies and examples of the excellent work already being undertaken around the country to address anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice.

We can all work together to combat this prejudice by listening to each other, committing ourselves to understanding each other and respecting each other's valuable contribution in combating prejudice against not only Arab and Muslim Australians but all Australians.

29 October 2004