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I have spoken on many occasions in this House about Western Sydney’s thriving arts and cultural institutions. A few weekends ago I had the privilege of representing the Deputy Premier, and Minister for the Arts, the Hon. Troy Grant, at the opening of the stage production Swallow at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta. Written by acclaimed playwright Stef Smith and directed by Kate Champion, the play takes the audience on a journey through the lives of three different women battling their own distinct personal troubles. Within minutes of starting, the audience is told of the issues faced by each character. Rebecca, played by Megan Drury, is furious that her ex-partner has left her for another woman and she turns that anger on herself. Sam, played by Valerie Berry, is struggling with a gender crisis, not sure if she is Sam or Samantha. Anna, played by Luisa Hastings Edge, has locked herself in her apartment, afraid to face the outside world.

Though ostensibly unconnected, these women’s lives start to weave together in ways that allow them to heal and find a path forward in life. With only the use of three different kinds of seats, some mood lighting and a revolving illuminated block that serves as a door, the women express their pain and anguish—individually at first then slowly they find their lives intersecting. Rebecca and Sam meet over coffee and strike up a tentative relationship; Rebecca seeks refuge from her ex at Anna’s door; and Sam needs access to Rebecca’s door from Anna to pass on a new phone number. The play is a compelling take on modern issues that challenges the audience’s preconceived views on matters such as gender, mental health, self-doubt and identity. I take this opportunity to thank and congratulate all the cast and crew involved.

Some well-deserved mentions go to designer Anna Tregloan, composer and sound designer Max Lyandvert, lighting designer Verity Hampson, production manager Jack Horton, stage manager Charlotte Barrett, assistant to the director Kate Worsley, associate sound designer Katelyn Shaw, and costume and stage finishing Kate Aubrey. As the inaugural production from the new National Theatre of Parramatta, previously known as the Riverside Theatre, Swallow is a fantastic indication of the calibre of performances that are on display in the cultural hub of Western Sydney. I also place on record my great appreciation for the work and advocacy of Rob Love, Director of the National Theatre of Parramatta.

On the same weekend I attended another event that celebrated cultural diversity in Western Sydney: the San Giorgio Martire Di Festival in Kenthurst, which I have been delighted to attend every year for the past decade. The San Giorgio Martire Di Festival is a celebration by the Italian Australian community who come from Martone in Calabria and whose patron saint is San Giorgio. The annual festival attracts nearly 10,000 people who come together to celebrate their culture and tradition while celebrating what it means to be Australian. For years I have had the utmost pleasure to share in the hospitality and kindness displayed by the thousands of hardworking Italian Australians who attend the festival, many from my electorate but just as many who travel to join the celebrations.

I have had the good fortune of being raised in Western Sydney among many people of Italian heritage. I have witnessed their culture of hard work, dedication and commitment to family that has seen many of those from the Italian community prosper in our great country. This festival is a testament to those who maintain their Italian heritage and proudly call themselves Australian. I especially thank Nicolas Pappalo, OAM, and the Associazione San Giorgio Martire di Sydney for their tireless efforts in ensuring the annual tradition of the San Giorgio Martire Di Festival is upheld. It is always my great pleasure to join people such as the Hon. Morris Iemma and my colleagues the member for Drummoyne and the member for Ryde, who are of Italian background, who always support this festival in my backyard. It is a wonderful occasion that highlights the great culture we celebrate across Western Sydney.