what's happening / news / SPEECH: Ukifest 2022

SPEECH: Ukifest 2022

It is a pleasure to be with you all this afternoon celebrating the wonderful culture of Ukraine.

Today, as we come together to celebrate your rich history, delicious food and beautiful heritage through song and dance, we also stand side by side – as one.

It is an honour to stand with you in support for Ukraine, invaded by Russia in February this year.

We, the people of New South Wales, are one family, supporting each other in times of crisis.

The NSW Government’s position on the conflict is clear and unequivocal.

The Russian military action in Ukraine endangers human life and liberty.

It threatens an independent nation’s sovereignty and right to territorial integrity.

The NSW Government stands with the Commonwealth Government in affirming our respect for Ukrainian territorial sovereignty and its right to peace, freedom, and democratic rule.

We feel the enormity of the conflict overseas in NSW, which is home to large Ukrainian and Russian communities who continue to hear news of the constantly evolving situation with deep concern for their many loved ones.

Many community members have relatives in Ukraine who have joined the fight, or who have unfortunately lost their lives.

This is an incredibly troubling time for all Ukrainians living in NSW and right across the world, and I appreciate the emotions that the Ukrainian-Australian community will be feeling right now.

The NSW Government joined support for Ukraine around the world, when we lit the Sydney Opera House sails blue and yellow from Monday 28 February to Saturday 5 March.

By lighting up the Opera House, we showed the world that we stand with the people of Ukraine and denounce the acts of violence taking place.

This symbolic gesture demonstrated that our collective thoughts are with Ukraine and the Ukrainian community in NSW.

The NSW Government is taking steps to provide additional support in the form of services and is liaising with the Ukrainian community directly and through appropriate services to further understand their current issues.

I’d like to talk about what the NSW Government is doing to support the Ukrainian community during this difficult time.

I have regularly met with various members of the Ukrainian community, even as recently as this week, to continue understanding the support that is needed, including with the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations and the Ukrainian Council of NSW.

I am proud of this government’s announcement to fund the NSW Service for the Treatment of Torture and Trauma Services (STARTTS) to extend its counselling services to community members impacted by overseas conflicts.

As of late February, STARTTS started a service specifically for the Ukrainian community through the Witness to War program, funded by the NSW Government.

They have successfully recruited 11 bi-cultural support workers, including 4 Ukrainian staff, to support this cohort.

The NSW Government has also been working closely with the Humanitarian Settlement Program provider, Settlement Services International (SSI), to plan for longer-term accommodation and settlement options for new arrivals through the Humanitarian Settlement Program.

And the NSW Government has provided SSI with further support of $600,000 which I recently announced.

We support new arrivals to make sure they get the best start in NSW with healthcare services, including specialist counselling, English language support and other services through the Humanitarian Support Program as well as mainstream services.

The NSW Government is providing access to public hospital services free of charge for people from Ukraine who arrived in Australia on or after 1 December 2021.

This is a temporary arrangement under the NSW Health policy for asylum seekers without Medicare.

The NSW Department of Education has also advised that they will allow for enrolments of all Ukrainian school aged children, including those who still hold a visitor visa.

By continuing to respond appropriately to the needs of the Ukrainian arrivals, the NSW Government has offered free access to public transport, by way of credited Opal cards, to support the cohort settling in NSW.

We have also partnered with NAATI to provide language support to newly arrived people from Ukraine.

Eighteen Ukrainian interpreters have now been awarded national accreditation.

They are being onboarded onto the Multicultural NSW Language Services panel.

The NSW Government continues to work closely with the Commonwealth Government, settlement providers, local government, NGOs and other stakeholders to ensure that all humanitarian arrivals, including Ukrainian arrivals, get the possible start to their new lives in our State.

This war marks a tragic and grave moment that defines our century.

And yet, in this dark time, we have seen some of the most powerful expressions of human solidarity and empathy for the people of Ukraine.

The world has witnessed your courage and resilience in your struggle to safeguard your freedom.

I know that it is not easy for you all to process these immense and senseless losses.

And yet, I would like to remind you that you are not alone in your struggle.

It is a privilege and an honour to stand united with you today in support of Ukraine.