Cr. Dinny Adem, Mayor of Greater Shepparton opened the 2017 Conference Social Cohesion in the Goulburn Valley: Looking Back, Looking Forward. We bring you his opening remarks.
We, Greater Shepparton City Council, acknowledge the traditional owners of the land which now comprises Greater Shepparton. We pay respect to their tribal elders, we celebrate their continuing culture and we acknowledge the memory of their ancestors.
Welcome to everyone here today for the 2017 Social Cohesion in the Goulburn Valley Conference.
It is great that La Trobe University has collaborated with the Shepparton Interfaith Network and the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District to present this conference today so I thank you all for your support in executing this function.
I would also like to thank the keynote speaker Professor Santina Bertone and Dr Martina Boese for being here today, to share your insight and knowledge about social diversity and employment themes with everyone here in attendance. It is important to keep in mind the key goal of settlement in the Goulburn Valley is integration and not assimilation.
As a region, Greater Shepparton is known for its cultural diversity, harmony amongst our residents and our strong history of multiculturalism, and this is something we should be very proud of. The statistics back this up, with close to 15% of Greater Shepparton’s population being born overseas and close to 26 percent of people arriving from overseas in the last 5 years.
Greater Shepparton is an attractive place to a wide range of migrants for a variety of reasons. These include our history of migration and reputation of welcoming new arrivals, social factors including family or community members already living in the region, the agricultural industry and the offering of the lifestyle of a country town with the economic an employment opportunities of a city. These members of our community are embraced and celebrated at local events including Converge on the Goulburn and the St Georges Road Food Festival, where we all learn from one another and celebrate one another’s traditions.
My own story is I am a Muslim, born of immigrant parents. I was born in Shepparton, and I live with my wife Rita on a rural property in Shepparton East. My wife and I have two daughters. Born and raised on a farm, I have also worked for large corporations, as well as operating family owned businesses. My experience is that being Muslim and mayor is no marker of difference to the local community nor the businesses and corporations that I interact with. I am pleased and proud that I – and many others here in Greater Shepparton – are taken on our performance, our skills, our contributions and not our origin nor our faith.
I look forward to today’s conference delving into the success factors and the tensions encountered in maintaining a socially cohesive society here in the Goulburn Valley, as well as the issue of employment including the barriers to meaningful employment, successful employment enterprises and the potential for future initiatives.
Thank you for inviting me here today to open this exciting conference and I hope you all enjoy the day.