The identity of Greek descent makes Sophie Cotsis understands the hardships of being the minority group. She describes her parents’ immigration story as “full of struggle”, which has been driven her in the political career.
Sophie’s political positions include NSW Member of the Legislative Council, NSW Shadow Minister for Women, Ageing, Disability Services and Multiculturalism, and has now officially kicked off the campaign running for NSW Member for Canterbury, her birthplace.
City of Canterbury, located in south-western Sydney, is usually referred as a miniature of Australian multiculturalism. It is nearly impossible to stop hearing people from China, Italy, Korea, Greece, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and other countries saying “Hello” in different languages.
Sophie was born in Canterbury, and the multiculturalism in Canterbury, including the Chinese culture, has been an important part of her life.
“The Chinese community has contributed in vast amounts to the advancements of Australian economic and social prosperity. I grew up with many Chinese friends and went to school with many Chinese friends. My kids, they are learning mandarin, and will continue.”
“In the Canterbury area, more than 55% of the residents’ parents was born overseas, or themselves. So it is a very large multicultural community. Also, it is very important for me to be able to represent the community, to represent their needs, and let them have equal access to services. Sometimes it is about filling the gap.”
“Over the three months, we have been knocking at the doors of the public to listen to the voice of the community residents, and understand their stories and needs.”
Facing all sorts of requirements, what Sophie has shown is much interest and pleasure.
“Multiculturalism benefits Australian from many ways. Trade, foreign relationships, we are part of the global community. People from different ethnic groups, religions, cultural background, are living side by side. And that’s quite unique from the rest of the world. One of my priorities is to coordinate those different local community groups and provide equal services.”
“For example, in the recent State Budget, the Baird Government did not put in one extra dollar to provide funding for Canterbury hospital, this is absolutely outrageous and we need the Baird Government to listen to the community here in Canterbury. That’s why I’m fighting hard with local residents to ensure that Canterbury Hospital is duly funded as it should be.”
Multiculturalism is Irresistible and Unstoppable
Pauline Hanson, Leader of the One Nation Party, has been putting racial discrimination comments repeatedly, which sparked a great deal of criticism. However, at the 2016 federal election, One Nation Party claimed four seats in the Senate. It seems to prove their racial discrimination thoughts and policies are not isolated, and the concern has been raised that whether the multicultural development trajectory of Australia would change.
“It is impossible to change the situation that Australia is a multicultural country. Some politicians, such as Ms. Hanson, like to spread information of fear and division because this is the only way that they could attract attention and followers.”
However, the word “freedom of speech” is often used as a shield by Pauline Hanson and her supporters.
“Freedom of speech does not mean the right to infringe on another person by language. Freedom of speech is bounded. Ms. Hanson has apparently crossed the boundary. Many of her remarks hurt many groups, especially the Muslim groups, who are very upset and angry because this is not the Australia that people used to know.”
“We (the Labor Party) condemned her speech, and we should counter with facts and figures, while they rely on inflammatory remarks. I’d like to invite Ms. Hanson to dine together with the residents, have direct dialogue, and take her to see what should be the real Australia in the community.”
“But she probably might not want to come,” Sophie laughed.
When we talked about the future, Sophie is filled with confidence about the multiculturalism in Australia.
“When people come to Campsie, come to Burwood, we have people that running the beautiful restaurants, the owners might be Chinese, might be Korean, might be Vietnamese, might be Malaysian, people from different cultures. This is Australia, this is what we do, Chinese working with Greek, working with Lebanese, working with Italian.”
“Multiculturalism is not just a ‘token’, it is happening every day.” Says Sophie, assertively and powerfully.