FORMER prime minister Julia Gillard has taken inspiration from Chanukah, “and the use of light to drive out darkness”, she shared at a Chanukiah lighting at Parliament House last week.
“Proudly multicultural Melbourne welcomes and embraces this kind of coming together … Celebrations like this – ancient, joyful and reflective – are a part of Melbourne’s past, present and future,” she said at the Chabad of Melbourne event.
Calling Chanukah a time for reflection, Gillard, who is now chair of Beyond Blue, spoke on the imperative for diverse and harmonious multicultural communities, the importance of caring for each other, and her “belief in opportunity for all, and understanding of the many constraints that hold us back from realising that ambition”. She emphasised the plight of Indigenous Australians, the urgency for action on climate change, and underscored the significance of addressing the stigmas around mental health and suicide.
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“Having a values-based sense of purpose, persevering and supporting each other is one way to bring that light [of Chanukah],” she implored.
Turning to the achievements of the Victorian Jewish landscape, Premier Daniel Andrews labelled the community, “the best … in our nation; the most impactful, the best organised, [and] the most generous”.
He said, “The Jewish community makes us a more thoughtful state. The contribution in every field of endeavour, walk of life, industry, [and] sector … is something that I am profoundly grateful for, and on behalf of all Victorians, I take this opportunity to thank the Jewish community and its leadership.”
The premier also recognised the rise of antisemitism, acknowledging, “It is not an easy time to be a Jewish person – not just here in Victoria. It is a global issue.”
Stating that the government is currently working on a number of measures “to better understand these issues”, Andrews confirmed he “will have more to say about things we think we can do right across our state that will make this a more inclusive place, a fairer place, and a place where the Jewish contribution is only celebrated – because that’s the way that it should be”.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien echoed the sentiments, adding, “We must be louder, stronger, [and] more united than ever to say that we will be a state [and] a nation where people of faith can be who they are, can be proud of who they are and can profess who they are.
“As we gather to celebrate Chanukah, the festival of lights, as we gather to reflect, we should reflect proudly on what the Jewish community has contributed to Victoria, and do so knowing that we will stand with you and by you.”