PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very, very much. Thank you very, very much. Well, can I also say thank you, and can I start by acknowledging the Indigenous owners of this land on which we gather today, the Bunurong people. To veterans of Australia from our Defence Forces and thank you for your service, to any serving men and women who are here with us today.
Can I say and acknowledge, say thank you to and acknowledge the priests of the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple. The welcome we received as we went through the Temple is something I'll never forget, and it's been tremendous to be welcomed in such a way. To the President of the Temple, Rangarajan, it’s wonderful to be received by you here today. To Secretary Ratnam, thank you also for all of the work that has been put together to bring us all together in this wonderful way at this magnificent Temple and community facility which is here.
Can I also acknowledge Hindu, Sikh, Gujarati, Tamil, Malayali and Indian and Sri Lankan community and temple leaders from all around Victoria who are here today, and the leaders of the other faiths who have joined us here as well. It’s special to have you joining us.
To my Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood who has been such a tremendous friend and supporter of communities right across the country, not just here in Victoria. He's doing an outstanding job. I know how passionate he is about this. It’s why I gave him this job. This is his dream job. [Inaudible].
And to you, David, as well, it’s great for you to be joining us here.
So Namaste, Namaskarom, Vanakkam, Sat Sri Akaal. Friends, it is great to be with you today. It’s, it is with great honour that I join you here. This is the most successful multicultural immigration country in the world today. There's no doubt about that. And that has been achieved by the many millions of people who’ve come from all over the world, all different faiths, many different beliefs, many different ethnic backgrounds, language groups, and here we all are here in this wonderful country, Australia.
When I talk about multiculturalism in Australia I often talk about it in the, as if in the context of masala. And you’ll think about a masala, a wonderful masala and how it brings together all the different spices and the smells and the colours. And they all come together, the different tastes, the bitter and the sweet, and then it makes something as you taste it, and you smell, and the aroma is something wonderful. And then you mix it in with your onions, and your chillies and your garlic, and I'm looking forward to the cooking. And it creates something absolutely magnificent. And this is, I think, a wonderful metaphor of what multiculturalism is in this country. And in particular, I think what the Hindu community and Sikh communities and so many other communities of faith bring to this country.
This has been a very difficult time for Australians over the last 18 months, but not just here as we know, all around the world. And, you know, when things are difficult, when peoples patience are tested, and when they’re suffering hardship and going through great difficulty, particularly when you have so many family and friends who are in other places, a long way from where you are. It's tough. And in those times, you don't look to governments, you look to each other. You look to your community, you look to your faith, and it has been your faith and it has been your community, it has been your friendships that have sustained you so magnificently over the course of this last 18 months.
And to you Mr President, I thank you for your leadership of the Hindu community, but I'm sure you would agree with me that it’s each and every member of that community that makes it so incredibly special, and that they bring something to it, and the way that communities, faith communities like your own, have reached out and supported each other and that people have been able to find comfort and reassurance in their faith as they’ve gone through such difficult times.
The tragedy that we see in particular in India, at the moment, and throughout the developing world, is so hard. It is so hard to see occurring. And for so many of our family and friends caught up in what is a terrible humanitarian tragedy, all I can say is that Australia will continue to do all we can to provide support to our friends, not just in India, but in other places where we know that we can provide some support. Our consular staff are providing support right now to roughly 11,000 Australians who are registered to return to Australia, including 970 who we know are particularly vulnerable. But over the course of the pandemic, more than 20,000 Australians we’ve been able to bring home from India, 20,000. And that has included almost 40 facilitated flights to bring Australians who have been in India back home to safety here.
But we know it's not just the Australian citizens and residents and direct family members that you have concerns for. I know that your concerns go far broader than that, and they go to the Indian people more broadly. And that is why that Australia has continued to provide support. We’ve now had our second assistance flight that has gone to India, carrying oxygen concentrators and ventilators and personal protection equipment and all of these supports. And as I’ve spoken to other leaders around the world, as well, they have equally, they have equally been wanting to provide that support.
I spoke to Prime Minister Modi just a few weeks ago, just over, just over a week or so ago. And he spoke to me in appreciation of both the prayers and support that is coming from the community here in Australia. He knows the community here in Australia very well and he speaks fondly of it every time that he and I speak together. And he knows that there’s such wonderful support coming back to the Indian nation from right here, whether in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland or wherever the community is gathered together.
So we do have great friends here. We will continue to provide that friendship to India and all of those countries that continue to be affected so terribly by what is happening in COVID around the world. But for now, it's for me just simply to say thank you. Thank you for the great support that you’ve provided to one another. Thank you for the love and care that you’ve extended, not only to your own family members, but community members of what is such an integral part of the Hindu faith and so many of the other faiths is you welcome people in, and on those special days and providing that hospitality and that warm welcome, and it doesn't matter whether it is Diwali or Holi or the end of Ramadan or Easter, or whatever it happens to be.
People of faith in this country draw great strength from that faith, and I think it's so important that it is such a protected and safe part of Australian life. Faith and Australian life go firmly together. And as Prime Minister this is something that is very dear to me. So the fact that you can come together and be here safely is very important to me. But it’s also very important to me that you keep doing it, because from that are the bonds of community that continues to carry Australia through what has been a very difficult time. Thank you so much.