HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY
SPEECH TO THE FEDERATION CHAMBER
MONDAY, 5 SEPTEMBER 2022
I thank the member for Macnamara for moving this motion, which I wholeheartedly support.
I would like, as have other speakers, to acknowledge the work of the Gandel Foundation, which commissioned the Gandel Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness in Australia Survey, Australia's first comprehensive survey of Holocaust knowledge and awareness. The results of the survey were published in January of this year. While many of the findings are encouraging and even positive, the research team identified some worrying gaps in the community's knowledge of the Holocaust.
As the member for Macnamara notes in the motion, 27 January 2022 marked 77 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. Seventy-seven years—it's not so long ago. I am only standing here today because my father fled Nazi Germany as an 11-year-old boy, along with his older brother, Richard. They arrived at Station Pier in Melbourne in July 1939. Their parents, my grandparents, also managed to escape the Nazis, arriving in Australia as stateless persons in late December 1939. Three of my great-grandparents could not be convinced to leave Germany. They perished in the Holocaust.
I acknowledge that there are other members in this place, on both sides of the chamber, who, like me, owe their lives to the fact that one or more of their family members managed to escape the Nazis and find refuge in Australia. This is only recent history.
Yet, as the motion states, the national survey commissioned by the Gandel Foundation has revealed that nearly one-quarter of Australians have little or no knowledge of the Holocaust. This is despite Australia being home to one of the largest populations of Holocaust survivors per capita in the world.
This ignorance has consequences. It breaks my heart to have read reports over the last week of Jewish students at a private school in Sydney being bullied by other students performing Nazi salutes. That followed earlier reports which found that such bullying has become increasingly common in our schools. Do these bullies—these children—understand the significance of these actions? Such incidents should be unthinkable in modern Australia, and yet the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in this country continues to rise.
And it's not just Australia. According to the Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide 2021, released by Tel Aviv University, anti-Semitic incidents have increased dramatically across the world in recent years. This report offers a number of explanations for this, including the proliferation of harmful anti-Semitic discourse on social media since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, we cannot blame these incidents and worrying trends on ignorance of the Holocaust alone. But ignorance is part of the story, and I join the member for Macnamara in endorsing the work of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in promoting Holocaust education and combating antisemitism around the world. Closer to home, I applaud the move in 2020 by my home state of Victoria to join New South Wales in making Holocaust education a mandatory aspect of their school curriculum, and I encourage other states and territories to follow suit.
Tackling racism and prejudice—including anti-Semitism—is everyone's responsibility, and, as Attorney-General in the new Albanese government, I will be looking for ways in which the Commonwealth can do more to combat antisemitism.
I acknowledge the work of the former member for Kooyong Josh Frydenberg, who, as Treasurer, provided funding for Holocaust museums and education centres across Australia. 'Never forget' and 'never again' are phrases that are often associated with Holocaust remembrance. We must ensure they never become mere slogans.
We must, as individuals and as a community, remember the Holocaust in order to honour the memory of the victims—not only the six million Jewish victims but also the millions of others who perished, including homosexuals, people with intellectual disabilities and political prisoners.
We must remember the Holocaust to honour the survivors of the Nazi regime—those who are no longer with us and those still alive today, including my father, who celebrated his 94th birthday in July.
We must remember, because it's only by learning the lessons of the Holocaust we can ensure it never happens again.