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‘I’ve got the best job in government’: NSW Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure

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Just a day before the sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House were illuminated blue and yellow in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and the Ukrainian community in New South Wales, I e-meet with Minister for Multiculturalism and Seniors, Mark Coure. 

We chat about the military action that has already claimed lives – including those of Greek nationals – and Coure sends his thoughts to those affected. “My heart and sympathies go out to all of those who have lost loved ones overseas during this conflict. Hopefully, we can see very soon an end to this war.” 

I can’t help but think it should be a challenging time politically and socially to hold two important portfolios but Coure seems committed and passionate about the job. 

Mr Coure with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet

I ask him about his first months in the new role and he refers with admiration to the state’s diverse communities, the contribution of migrants and how Sydney is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. 

“I’ve got the best job in government,” he says. “Probably the second-best job in government. The Premier is the best job,” he corrects himself with a sense of humor as he unfolds his family’s immigration story. 

“My grandparents arrived in Australia after World War II. They came from Egypt. In fact, my grandmother spoke five, possibly six languages. I do know Greek was one of them,” he says. 

Born in Hurstville Grove, Coure was educated in local schools St Joseph’s Oatley and Marist College Penshurst, before studying at Macquarie University. Prior to being the Member for Oatley, he ran his own small business and served on Kogarah City Council for 8 years. Today, he lives in Penshurst with his wife Adla, a school teacher and first generation Australian of Lebanese heritage, raising their sons James and Sam.

“All of our neighbors are Greek and have been here for generations. Their parents or grandparents were the ones who worked on the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge,” he says. 

Minister for Multiculturalism and Seniors Mark Coure with his wife Adla and sons James and Sam. Photo: FB/Mark Coure MP

With Ministerial responsibilities come challenges especially after a pandemic which tested multicultural communities in NSW, but Coure has a grassroots approach and his involvement with various community groups over the years seems to come handy.

“There’s always challenges,” he says. “And I think this portfolio, is about keeping communities safe, happy, ensuring that they have got the proper resources they need to, particularly during the pandemic.”

Mr Coure after a meeting with the SydWest Multicultural Services team

Asked what his goals are and which issues he wants to tackle first, he says that his priorities are to combat social isolation among older adults and increase funding for multicultural groups to help their members through mental health workshops, translated material for vaccination and food hampers.

“Community groups do it best. And I think that with our programs, we are going into the heart of many of these community groups, helping them to help their members. That’s my priority. To ensure that our community leaders and our multicultural community groups in particular are supported during this pandemic.”

Mr Coure with the Board of the Ethic Communities Council of NSW

“And I must say in New South Wales that the community leaders, the religious leaders have done an exceptional job in educating their communities. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

The politician is well known within the Greek community for attending community events, supporting initiatives and for his love for the language and culture. 

“We have many Greek language schools here in New South Wales and across Australia which we are supporting and will continue to support because it’s very important that the Greek language continues,” he says and pledges to help increase the number of students who take a second language all the way to HSC.

On his first official duty as Minister for Multiculturalism, Mr Coure visited the NSW Federation of Community Language Schools, which represents 250 member schools, teaching 87 different languages across the state.

“I’m going to do everything I can as minister of multiculturalism to ensure that our children are taking up that second language,” he says. 

Coure comes across as one of the most chilled politicians I’ve interviewed over the years. 

He says his door will always be open to feedback from communities over a coffee and he makes sure to invite me to the Greek Festival of Sydney which he has been supporting and attends every year.

“I can’t wait,” he says. “It’s been on for 40 years and it’s one of those events that it’s not just for Greeks.”

It’s certainly promising when the Minister for Multiculturalism invites you to your own community’s cultural event with such excitement. You know it’s not all Greek to him.

We can’t wait for Minister Coure to initiate the popular community event with a speech in Greek next year. 

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