Clubs can be more inclusive: MP

A NATIONALS MP has told Federal Parliament how Australian surf lifesaving clubs can play an important role in eliminating the "cultural gap", in part, which contributed to the violent protests in Sydney at the weekend.

Victorian lower house MP Darren Chester was speaking in support of a motion he has before the House of Representatives which recognises the importance of surf lifesaving clubs.

During debate in the Federation Chamber this week Mr Chester, who is an active member of the Lakes Entrance Surf Life Saving Club, issued a challenge for the Australian surf life saving movement to become "more inclusive into the future".

He said while surf lifesaving clubs had worked hard to attract people from indigenous and culturally diverse backgrounds, there were opportunities "to do it better".

The Member for Gippsland made particular reference to the Sydney protests, which were sparked by an American film depicting Mohammed as gay.

"I think we can improve as club members in the way that we become more inclusive of those who have perhaps not had a strong background in the surf lifesaving movement," Mr Chester said.

"I think it is, at least, part of the solution to come of the scenes we saw on the weekend with racial intolerance and violence in Sydney.

"Part of that answer is eliminating the cultural gap, and I think the Leader of the Opposition was very accurate ... when he said newcomers to our country must leave their hatred behind.

"I am not trying to put all of the burden on our surf lifesaving club movement, but I believe our surf clubs can help to give newcomers to Australia ... a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

"I think they (surf clubs) are at least part of the solution to more than just surf safety issues in the 21st century."

Mr Chester's motion before the House also highlights the Coalition's commitment to set up a $10 million fund for Australia's surf slubs.

This money, he said, would be used to purchase rescue equipment, first-aid supplies and extending the beach drowning black spot reduction program.

Meanwhile, Sydney and Melbourne's Islamic communities have condemned the actions of what they described as a small group of "freelancers" who were responsible for fuelling the protests on Saturday.

The leaders of 25 Muslim organisations met on Monday night to formulate a response in the wake of the ugly scenes.

Lebanese Muslim Association president Samir Dandan said more needed to be done to engage with the young Muslims responsible.

"We want to engage with them; we want to try to understand what drove them to this mentality," Mr Dandan said.

He said Muslim organisations had received hundreds of racist messages in the wake of the protests.



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