Inga Peulich is the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs in the State of Victoria. In a video interview with AMA’s Clyde Sharady, Ms Peulich talks about her role and shares her view on multiculturalism and her appreciation of multicultural communities in general and African communities in particular.
Honourable Inga Peulich, Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs (Victoria)
Peulich has been a member of parliament for over 20 years and has occupied different positions throughout her political career, but she says she is very happy in her current role and enjoys being part of the celebrations of achievements of Victorian multicultural communities. Born in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Peulich arrived in Australia as a teen-aged girl with her parents in 1967. As a migrant herself, she says she is a great supporter of multiculturalism. “Australia has been built on successive waves of migrants and multiculturalism is the only way to a positive and prosperous future for the country and for the success of multiculturalism it is important that different migrant groups feel that they are being heard and they belong”, she stated.
Talking about the the liberal party, Peulich says that whilst both the labor party and her (liberal) her party support multiculturalism, the difference between the two parties is that the liberal party focuses on practical issues affecting people’s day to day lives. It is not into elitism, political correctness or spin (like the labour party) and it focuses on helping people to find solutions they need for their own lives.
when asked what her biggest concern was regarding the current Daniel Andrews (labour) government on multiculturalism, Peulich says with confidence that she disagrees with the government’s policy push to broaden multiculturalism to sit within the broader diversity agenda with other groups, particularly the emphasis given to sexual agenda and sexual diversity which is placed above religious freedom. For her, this is an issue, because she believes that many multicultural communities are conservative and they feel neglected and some are even angry with this approach by government. She believes that Andrew’s government is trying to remove religious exemption out of the Equal Opportunity Act and if this is done it will be very bad, because without religious freedom there is no democracy and multiculturalism.
Peulich says since she has been in her role, she has met many African leaders and individuals and attended many community events. She sees the broad Victorian African community as very, vibrant, talented and aspirational group of people and she appreciate their focus on family and being able to support each other. “It is important for the government to understand the dynamics of African communities and work with it and not against it. African communities value education, they have many aspirations and they are very beautiful and energetic people” she stated.
Ms Peulich also talked about the issues that affect African communities. She says she understands that one of the most critical challenges that African communities are facing at the moment is the representations in the media. African families and communities should not just be defined by the negative stories in the media, but also by the wonderful things that happen in their communities. “Many individuals came to Australia with no education and skills, but they have been able to turn their lives around and achieved a lot and this needs to be recognised and highlighted by the media. Each migrant group throughout the history of Australia has faced its own challenges and this is the same for African communities, which must focus on addressing the issues that they are currently griping with”, she told AMA.
In response to a question of whether the liberal party is sufficiently well understood by multicultural communities, Peulich agrees that many multicultural communities may not always have not enough understanding of what the liberal party stands for. She says that “this situation is partly explained by the fact that the liberal party is not into spin and PR and often sells itself short. Unlike the labour party that is represented in the workplace through its unions and this gives it access to many migrants, the liberal party has to find ways to communicate with migrants and it is not always an easy exercise”.
Peulich describes the liberal party as a party that stands for family, aspiration and helping those who are experiencing hard time. She talks about Robert Menzies (former liberal leader) having introduced the concept of social justice as a key aspect of government policy to help those who need assistance and who need a hand to lift themselves up. “The liberal party is about choice, it is about the right to live life as you see fit within the limits of the law and the liberals believe in a government that use ressources well to help address real issues for everyone, not just for political friends or factional groups or other interest groups”, she declared.
Speaking on refugees and asylum seekers, Ms Peulich says that the liberal party does not support soft policies on refugees and asylum seekers, because they encourage people smugglers, put many lives at risk and create a lot of issues. She states that “there are a lot of tough issues in this area of policy and these tough issues need tough answers, but in the end everyone, including migrants groups understand and agree that there is a need for an orderly and fairer migration system and people need to be processed properly so that genuine refugees are not left out or forced to wait for years and years before they come to Australia”.
Responding to a question about the perception within African communities that the liberal party tend to blame communities when difficult issues arise (such as crime and violence in the community), Peulich says this perception is wrong and needs to be corrected, because the liberal party always seeks to constructively identify the real causes of any issues affecting communities and this is very important to help respond appropriately and effectively to whatever challenges that need to be addressed. “There is no benefit in shifting blames or pointing fingers and everyone must always focus on identifying issues and finding ways to resolve them and this is what the liberal party focuses on”.