I hope that all my Chinese friends near and far have a wonderful Chinese New Year and that the year ahead brings joy, luck and peace to them and their families. I am proud to say that the Oatley electorate has one of the largest Chinese populations in the State. As we welcome the Year of the Snake, its celebrations across Australia showcase the richness of Chinese culture and remind us of our diversity as a nation. Chinese New Year is celebrated across the world but outside China the biggest celebrations are held in Sydney. The Year of the Snake represents wisdom and a thoughtful approach to tackling the challenges before us. As I have mentioned previously in this place, Mandarin has recently overtaken Italian and has become the most common second language spoken in Australia.
More than 1.6 per cent of the Australian population now speaks Mandarin at home. I always have been a close supporter of my local Chinese community. In fact more than 18 per cent of the population in the Oatley electorate identifies as being of Chinese origin, mainly around Hurstville, Penshurst, Beverly Hills and Narwee. Recently an annual Hurstville Lunar New Year street festival was held and Forest Road, Hurstville was closed for a day to host a number of Chinese stores selling a wide variety of items. This festival event, which is always well attended, was opened by the Mayor of Hurstville, Jack Jacovou, along with Deputy Mayor, Andrew Istephan. The Consul General of China attended along with councillors Con Hindi and Christina Wu. Hurstville council put on an excellent event. Councillor Nancy Liu also did a fantastic job assisting and liaising with stakeholders and the council.
Chinese New Year is one of the most important dates in the Chinese calendar and is an important time for Chinese families to reflect on the year just passed and to welcome the year ahead. Chinese New Year can be celebrated in many different ways with line dancers, fireworks, family gatherings, family meals, visiting friends and relatives and, of course, the giving of red envelopes. Whether buying presents for loved ones or attending family gatherings for the annual reunion dinner, Chinese New Year is a special time for all Chinese families. I particularly thank the Buddhist Light International Association for its hospitality to me throughout the Chinese New Year period. I extend my thanks to Scott, Hayden and Creighton Yung and their mother, Karen, for their generosity and warm introduction to the local Buddhist community in Hurstville.
I happily look forward to future interaction with my local Buddhist community, particularly when I visit their temple next weekend. I acknowledge also Francis Wong from the Changsha Society, which held its Chinese New Year function last night, Hudson Cheng from the Australian Chinese Charity Foundation, which held its event last weekend, and my good friend councillor Ted Sang from Randwick City Council, who is the general manager of the Australian Chinese Community Association, which held its New Year event on Friday night. People of Chinese origin the world over have been celebrating the new Chinese Lunar Year. I wish all my Chinese friends near and far a happy and eventful year ahead.