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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Independent MP Dai Le on the church attack in her electorate

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Independent MP Dai Le on the church attack in her electorate

After the stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel in an Assyrian Orthodox Church in Wakeley on Monday, and the killings in Bondi Junction shopping centre just two days earlier, many people in Sydney and in Australia more widely are tense.

The shopping centre incident, in which the perpetrator was a mentally-ill 40-year-old man, was not seen by the police as terrorism; the church attack, by a 16-year-old youth, was.

With constant protests against Israel’s actions in Gaza and fears about a wider Middle East conflict, social harmony among religions and cultures in Australia is straining.

Dai Le is the independent member for the seat of Fowler, where the church incident took place. Hers is one of the most diverse electorates in the country.

On how the local community is feeling, Dai Le stresses:

The community is currently feeling on edge and there is tension in the community, since the attack.

As you can appreciate, people are on tenterhooks at the moment […] This just follows on from the Bondi killings that happened as well. So it’s just one day after another.

Talking about the alleged attacker, who is a teenager, she highlights some of the struggles facing young people:

Our young people are often very much feeling cut off from society. And I think that they are struggling with mental health issues. They’re struggling with the cost of living. They’re struggling with finding their identity and where they belong in today’s society, where it’s so fast paced, where there’s lots of expectations.

I can’t speak around this young man because I don’t know much about his history.

I do know is that young people need a lot of support, and need a lot to feel that they belong, that they are valued. And how do we do that? What can we create to make sure that they are valued members of our community?

Dai Le still remains hopeful and proud of Australia’s role as a multicultural society:

I still believe, though, that we are still a wonderful multicultural community. I believe that we have that great uniqueness. And Australia has always been welcoming, and I hope that Australia will continue to maintain our wonderful cohesiveness and harmony. If everybody, all the leaders, we work together to ensure the message is out there, that people are welcomed, that people have the right to practice their faith, that people feel that they belong in the community.

Finally, on her hopes for the budget, Dai Le focuses on the kitchen table issues:

I’ve asked the Prime Minister before to extend that excise fuel tax cut, because that will obviously bring down the petrol prices, which is above $2.10 and sometimes up to $2.50, for people because our community travels a lot for work. The grocery food prices that is kind of really just beyond anybody’s imagination how much it costs nowadays to do your grocery shopping.

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