An unusual alliance between a first generation Greek migrant and a fourth generation Australian has bridged the cultural divide and seen the timely launch of Parliamentary Friends of Multiculturalism.

At the launch in Parliament House last week Labor Member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou and Liberal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent said as the group’s co-convenors they were united in promoting the benefits of multiculturalism.

Ms Vamvakinou told Neos Kosmos the idea of establishing this group came about a year ago and the response has been positive. “In recent years because of September 11 people started to associate multiculturalism with national security, with ghettos, with the notion that it is not working. Then they confused it with the immigration issue and we almost lost bipartisanship on this issue. People lost their trust in multiculturalism” “Australia is a diverse society – it is part of who we are as Australians both in the city and the bush. Some leaders have suggested that multiculturalism has failed in Europe, Australian society is quite different,” Ms Vamvakinou said.

“Migration has brought enormous benefits to Australia, adding to the vibrancy of our society and increasing its productivity,” added Mr Broadbent. “To walk away from multiculturalism is to walk away from success.” Ms Vamvakinou and Mr Broadbent were thrilled the launch had generated so much interest, and was attended by almost 50 MPs and dozens of ambassadors from the diplomatic corp.

Amongst them the ambassador of Greece in Australia Mr Alexis Christopoulos and the High Commissioner of Cyprus Mr John Iakovou. Australian Federation of Islamic Councils President and Australian ACT Ambassador Ikebal Patel said he was honoured to be the group’s first guest speaker.

“The whole atmosphere reminded me of the 1980s when everyone believed strongly that multiculturalism was such an important issue,” concluded Ms Vamvakinou.