Statements By Senators - 26 November 2014


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (13:46): On 11 November 2014 Australia marked the 96th anniversary of the guns falling silent at the end of the First World War. It was a time of reflection for the world. I attended the national Remembrance Day service at the Australian War Memorial to pay tribute to the Australian men and women who have died and suffered in wars and conflicts in the name of our great nation.

 

One of the great privileges of being a senator for the ACT is having such iconic and important institutions, such as the Australian War Memorial, within my electorate. Charles Bean, the man who conceived the Australian War Memorial, wrote of his vison for it in 1918:

still, beautiful, gleaming white and silent, a building of three parts, a centre and two wings. The centre will hold the great national relics of the AIF. One wing will be a gallery—holding the pictures that our artists painted and drew actually on the scene and amongst the events themselves. The other wing will be a library to contain the written official records of every unit.

On 11 November 2014, some 96 years on, his vision stands fulfilled in our nation's capital. It is an enduring memorial, which stands opposite this very parliament. It is a resolute and perpetual memorial that is at the centre of our nation's consciousness, both physically and spiritually. The ever-watchful gaze of the Australian War Memorial on the heart of our democracy fittingly reflects the constant and unfaltering service of our Defence personnel in protecting our way of life and values.

I was privileged to stand in silence, honouring our fallen service men and women, and acknowledging our Defence personnel for their unshakable resolve in defending Australia and its interests. In the spirit of honouring Australia's service men and women, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, announced that the CEW Bean Foundation was successful in its grant application for $100,000 to construct the War Correspondents' Memorial. The foundation was awarded the grant under the federal government's Saluting their Service commemorations program. The War Correspondents' Memorial will be constructed at the Australian War Memorial and is due for completion in 2015.

The memorial will honour the war correspondents, photographers, artists, and film and sound crews who risked their lives to document and share the experiences of all Australians who have served in conflicts with their loved ones and the wider public who remained in Australia. It is through the work of such individuals that we might begin to grapple with the experiences of our service personnel. This shows a continuing commitment to the vison of Charles Bean and further shows the commitment of the Australian people in honouring their service men and women.

While we may never understand what our service men and women have gone through, we must remain committed to enshrining their experiences in our nation's memorials. I commend the minister and the government on what will be a great addition to our War Memorial.

I turn now to the Shop Small campaign, which is an excellent initiative. It is about highlighting the value of small business and encouraging people to get behind small business. I have always been a strong advocate for small business here in the ACT and beyond. The ACT has a vibrant small-business community and whilst government is very important as an employer, here in Canberra, most of our private sector is made up of small businesses.

On Wednesday, 12 November, I visited the Coffee Guru cafe in Gungahlin to help out the team, by clearing tables and taking orders, as part of the Shop Small campaign. Shop Small is in its second year here in Australia and I am excited to see that it is growing. The Shop Small initiative is a movement dedicated to supporting the small businesses that collectively provide over 45 per cent of private-sector employment across Australia. Small business is an essential pillar of the Australian economy. It is incredibly important that we support our local small-business sector. Shop Small is part of that support and I implore all Australians to engage with this campaign.

Shop Small is about reminding the community of the importance of supporting their local butcher, cafe, dry-cleaner, newsagent or grocery store amongst many others. Small businesses are the key to creating more jobs and Australia's prosperity. Small businesses particularly assist the younger generation in securing employment early on in life. They provide the opportunity for youths to learn valuable skills that will set them up for any career they choose to undertake.

A solid foundation of healthy small businesses is essential for the growth our communities. This is a challenge to all of us to shop small and support our local small businesses. Not only will it directly enhance the strength of our local communities but also it will collectively help build a robust and resilient Australia.

Volunteers play a vital role in our community and they are so often taken for granted. That is why I decided to sign up for the 25 Days of Volunteering campaign, which is run by the ACT Volunteering team. This is an initiative that is preoccupied with enriching the ACT through volunteering. It is an extensive program that works towards strengthening participation in volunteering programs across the ACT through a 25-day blitz of community service. Volunteering ACT represents an extensive base of organisations totalling more than 200. Volunteering ACT describes itself as an active link between community groups and prospective volunteers.

 

Volunteering ACT paired me up with the Intensive Care Unit volunteer program at the Canberra Hospital. I was met by Amanda Mironow, who coordinates the volunteers at the hospital. Amanda provided me with an orientation pack which contained all the tools and information I needed to start my shift. It was a wonderful experience to see the work that the volunteers do and the work that the nursing and medical staff do in the intensive care unit. The volunteers play a really valuable role in taking some of the pressure off the excellent paid staff that we have at the Canberra Hospital. It was wonderful to hear from some of the volunteers about their commitment to serving their community and their nation.