Last Thursday, Inga Peulich MLC, the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, raised the importance of our work in the Victorian Parliament.

She was discussing the Victorian Government’s announcement last July to allocate $25 million to develop a community-based approach to enhance social cohesion and community resilience to counter all forms of violent extremism. She encouraged the Government to consider the valuable grassroots work OHPI is doing, and support our initiative through short-term funding.

According to the Shadow Minister:

  • The Government’s focus in investing the allocated $25 million (set aside to enhance social cohesion and community resilience) is on long and medium term initiatives. However, some attention needs to be paid to short term initiatives too.
  • OHPI is one such organisation with many short term initiatives to combat online hate material, particularly material directed that youth vulnerable to radicalisation.
  • OHPI’s work comes from the grassroots, and hence is worthy of being supported by the current government.

We thank Mrs Peulich for her vote of confidence in the work that we do.

Here’s the full text of her speech:

Multicultural affairs grants

Mrs PEULICH (South Eastern Metropolitan) — The matter I wish to raise is for the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, the Honourable Robin Scott, and it is in relation to money that has been set aside for strengthening social cohesion and resilience. This was a government commitment of $25 million over four years.

I note that the government was not very quick out of the blocks. It has finally established a social cohesion and community resilience advisory group, although not all of the names of its members have been released. Apparently an announcement was imminent some time ago in July, but I still am not aware of who all of the members of that group are. There is also a task force of ministers. In addition to that, $4 million has been set aside for a Social Cohesion and Multicultural Research Institute, so there still remains quite a lot of money in the kitty.

My concern is that many of these investments are for the medium and long term and not really for the short term. The importance of this issue was recognised recently in evidence to the Legal and Social Issues Standing Committee by Mr Eccles, the Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, who mentioned that the Council of Australian Governments had the issues of counterterrorism and countering violent extremism on its national agenda. Victorians have been playing a key role, but my concern is that no money has been set aside for short-term measures.

While this advisory group may inform government decisions, there are lots of opportunities to make a difference in the short term. One of those is the work that is being undertaken by the Online Hate Prevention Institute. Recently in a meeting with Dr Andre Oboler I became aware of some very interesting programs that involve the training up of young people to recognise and remove online hate material and other measures that I think many people would welcome — the reason being that we are fully aware of how vulnerable young people are to being recruited by radical causes.

The minister would be well advised to spend some of that money in the short term to make a difference through some of these short-term measures while we are looking at the medium and long-term measures for improving social cohesion and community resilience. I urge the minister to have his department enter into discussions with Dr Andre Oboler to see what programs are available. These initiatives actually come from the grassroots. They may as well run with them, and I am sure that many people would applaud such a move.”

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