Refugee Week is an opportunity to recognise the important contribution refugees make to the Australian culture, way of life and economy. I thank the member for Parramatta for bringing this matter of public importance before the House. Refugees and asylum seekers come to Australia because they are escaping violence, persecution, war and famine. They put their faith in us as a generous and open nation that offers a chance at a better life. Like many, I fear that we often fail refugees. We can do much more to live up to our promise as a wealthy nation founded on principles of generosity and opportunity.
I am really proud that this spirit is strong in my electorate and across Sydney's inner west, where refugees are welcomed by the community. Local organisations like Settlement Services International do amazing things to make refugees feel welcome. Other organisations, such as Metro Assist, Mums 4 Refugees and the Bower Reuse and Repair Centre, the Bread and Butter Project, the Asylum Seeker Centre in Newtown and the Refugee Council of Australia, also provide great services.
I love going to the monthly night markets at the Addison Road Community Centre. It is a Welcome Refugee Zone, where refugees sell food and wares, learn to run a business, and build capacity for their families. The project has supported refugee start-ups by creating a space for merchants to sell food that is cooked at home by the family. I will tell the story of 25-year-old Habib Asbati, who arrived in Australia from Lebanon in 2014 with a dream of opening his own business. Within two years he completed a bakery certificate and started his small business. With the support of the markets, he is now making a modest profit and reinvesting in his business and family. Habib says of the markets:
I love working in the street food market because it has a good atmosphere, the live music is excellent. At the last festival some people came to my stall six times to buy my crepes. I think they really like them.
Habib is a success story and has many role models in the prominent refugees who make Australia a better place. I refer to people like Sir Gustav Nossal, Frank Lowy, former Governor of New South Wales James Spigelman, Osamah Sami and Nahji Chu. Each of them took a chance on Australia and committed themselves to making Australia a better country.
The Refugee Council estimates that the total number of displaced persons across the world was 65.3 million last year. We should reflect on the contribution that refugees make to our country's economy and to the world economy. The Migration Council of Australia estimates that migration will add $1.6 trillion to Australia's gross domestic product [GDP] by 2050, adding 15.7 per cent to our workforce participation rate and 5.9 per cent in GDP per capita growth. They are astonishing figures that we should reflect on. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that much of this growth can be attributed to the work of asylum seekers. It stated:
… Humanitarian migrants displayed greater entrepreneurial qualities and reported a higher proportion of income from their own unincorporated businesses and this income increased sharply after five years of residency.
So we can see that there is an incredible number of displaced persons around the world. But when we accept them with open arms into our country we not only benefit from having them share their wonderful cultures with us but also share incredible economic benefits. We know that they work incredibly hard when they come to our country, and the figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirm that. We live up to our promise to be a generous and compassionate country when we welcome and support refugees. A number of activities have been held across my electorate and others during Refugee Week. Again, I thank the member for Parramatta for bringing forward this motion. We need to remember that our recognition of refugees goes two ways—migration and refugees make us stronger, more compassionate and more generous. Refugees are indeed at the heart of the Australian story.