‘It is up to us’
'More vital than ever'

‘It is up to us’

Co-chaired by Labor's Josh Burns, Liberal Julian Leeser and independent Allegra Spender, the Parliamentary Friends of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance will be launched.

Friends of IHRA co-chairs (from left) Josh Burns, Allegra Spender and Julian Leeser. Photo: Leila Stennett
Friends of IHRA co-chairs (from left) Josh Burns, Allegra Spender and Julian Leeser. Photo: Leila Stennett

A Federal Parliamentary Friends of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is to be established for the first time.

The nonpartisan group will be a forum for MPs to meet with Holocaust organisations, survivors and their families, and discuss matters relating to the strengthening and promotion of Holocaust education and remembrance, and combating antisemitism.

The group will be co-chaired by Labor’s Josh Burns, Liberal Julian Leeser and independent Allegra Spender.

“The need for Holocaust education is increasing due to rising antisemitism, but also due to a dwindling survivor population – it is up to us,” Burns said.

“This group will also explore ways to further include the IHRA definition of antisemitism in our institutions and across governments.”

The formation of the group coincides with an increase in antisemitic incidents across Australia, with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) reporting a 35 per cent increase in 2021 compared to the previous year, largely driven by conspiracy theories and the pandemic.

At the same time, a study by the Gandel Foundation and Deakin University found almost a quarter of Australians aged 18 or older have little to no knowledge of the Holocaust.

“With the deeply disturbing recent rise in antisemitism across our communities, at both the school and university level, it is clear it is more vital than ever that we stand together to counter antisemitism though education, particularly through institutions such as the Jewish museums, community outreach and research,” Spender said.

“IHRA is a crucial mechanism for ensuring that we continue to remember the Holocaust and never forget the lessons from that tragic event.

“As time passes and demographics change, it is very important to ensure the memories and experiences of Holocaust survivors are not lost to the annals of history.”

Leeser said he is proud to be a co-chair of the group.

“On a per capita basis Australia has been home to more Holocaust survivors than any other nation,” he said.

“My generation has been fortunate to meet survivors and have heard firsthand the atrocities of the Holocaust.

“We also heard stories of bravery and inspiration such as that shown by survivors like Eddie Jaku. As the generation of survivors passes on, Holocaust education is more vital than ever.”

ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said the IHRA definition “has never been more relevant and needed”.

“Josh Burns, Julian Leeser and Allegra Spender deserve high praise for taking the initiative to set up a federal parliamentary friends group in support of IHRA,” he said.

“We wish them every success in winning acceptance of IHRA in other sectors of society, especially by university administrations.

“If 101 of Britain’s top universities have seen fit to adopt IHRA as a standard for identifying antisemitism, Australia’s universities have no excuse for failing to do likewise.”

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’s director of international and community affairs, Jeremy Jones – who was the first Australian invited to a meeting of IHRA and who had a role in drafting the antisemitism definition – said, “It’s a really positive move that we have members of Parliament who are seeing the utility of this working definition.

“I hope that they will be able to make sure that it is not only put in the appropriate places – that being in the organisations which are grappling with issues of racism and antisemitism – but that is also used in a proper and responsible manner.”

The group’s formation follows a motion that received bipartisan support calling for all states and territories to follow the lead of Victoria and New South Wales to make Holocaust education a mandatory aspect of their school curriculum.

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