Having lived in the La Trobe area for more than 40 years, Jason Wood shares a strong affinity with the local residents. The Federal Member of Parliament for La Trobe is passionate about community safety and is focussed on ensuring La Trobe has first class health facilities, schools and sporting hubs. Wood is also actively involved with the Indian community and is lobbying for more grants for the Sikh temples in Officer and Pakenham.
Prior to entering politics, Wood graduated from the Victorian Police Academy. From 2004-10, Wood served as the Federal Member for La Trobe, where he actively used his knowledge of counter terrorism, which assisted the Howard Government in implementing tougher terrorism laws. In 2013, Wood was re-elected to Federal Parliament. With the redistribution of the Federal electorate boundaries in July 2018, Wood looks forward to representing the very diverse area of Pakenham and its surrounds.
Tell us more about your work with multicultural communities.
I go along quite well with the Indian community in La Trobe. Every Sunday I play cricket with the Gujarati community. Usually every fortnight, I visit the gurudwara.
I am fighting to secure Federal funding for multicultural hub for southeast Melbourne in Pakenham ($10 million, $350,000 for design and planning).
I have given personal funding to Indian Association Cardinia Casey for Diwali 2018 at Gumbuya World.
I have secured $40 million for Federation University, Berwick campus. As I am aware that Indian parents invest a lot in education, this university offers a range of courses including Bachelor’s degree in Nursing.
Currently, I am supporting the 2019 Australian Sikh Games with $120,000 grant. I have also invested $10 million to help deliver Bunjil Place.
How are you spporting the two Sikh gurudwaras in Pakenham and Officer?
Funded $17,000 to Officer Sikh temple – IT & AV (audio visual) aids for harnessing community engagement through Stronger Community Grants Programme.
Raised over 300 signatures for funding of Sikh temples in Officer and Pakenham. Lobbing with Federal govt to secure Federal funding for the following:
Officer Sikh temple: $600,000 for upgrades to provide improved facilities for local multi-cultural community; $80,000 for renovations to a food preparation building.
Pakenham Sikh Temple: $70,000 for Jor Mela Community Sports Event; $85,000 for refrigerated food van.
Indian Association Cardinia Casey: $50,000 proposal for Diwali Festival.
What does it mean for you to have a commitment to diversity?
Diversity and inclusion have been embedded in my system since I have become a politician. I value and respect other cultures as my wife is Chinese and even though my daughter is born and brought up in Australia, she is learning (Mandarin/ Cantonese).
What do you see as the most challenging aspects of an increasingly diverse community?
I am also a chair on Joint Standing Committee on Migration. Some of my work includes – cancelling citizenships for terrorist conduct (dual nationals), and cancelling visas of criminals.
I am meeting with a lot of the multicultural communities on my electorate and I’m looking forward to sitting down with them. I am doing some further work on some of the domestic violence issues and following up some of the funding we announced earlier this week.
What efforts are required to foster greater multicultural understanding?
I am a believer that, first, we need to understand, communicate and effectively interact with people across cultures. I want to celebrate the contribution that the Indian community has made to Australia. I do not think you find a better, more decent, more hardworking group of people. I see them every day in my community in La Trobe. It is your community that is running businesses, teaching our students, looking after our sick. You have made Australia the great country which it is.
In your experience, what are the key factors that contribute to the success of diverse community members?
Relationships are powerful. And building relationships with people from different cultures, often many different cultures, is key in building diverse communities that are powerful enough to achieve significant goals. Therefore:
• Make a conscious decision to establish friendships with people from other cultures.
• Put yourself in situations where you will meet people of other cultures.
• Examine your biases about people.
• Ask people questions about their cultures, customs, and views.
• Read about other people’s cultures and histories.
• Listen to people tell their stories.
• Notice differences in communication styles and values; don’t assume that the majority’s way is the right way.
• Risk making mistakes.
• Learn to be an ally.
(As told to Indira Laisram)