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Published September 3rd 2018
Seven ways to celebrate our cultural diversity
Dancers perform at the World Curry Festival in July 2018
More than just the Bush Capital and public servants, Canberra is also a wonderfully multicultural city. We're home to embassies from all over the world, and we have a population which,according to the last census, just under 45 per cent of all ACT residents said that either their mother, their father or both parents were born overseas. I myself was born in the Philippines, and both of my parents, now living in Canberra, were also born in the Philippines.
To celebrate our cultural diversity, we hold a National Multicultural Festival in February each year. It's a fabulous event where we all come together to rejoice in and learn more about the many different cultures that make up our city through food, music, dance, and fun. But we can, in fact, celebrate our wonderful cultural diversity all year long, and not just over a few days in February.
Unfortunately, we now live in an age where fear-mongering and hatred, suspicion, division and intolerance of 'people not like us', seem to be more vocal than ever before. And so I believe it's more important than ever to learn more about one another and understand each other and find the things we all have in common as well as celebrate all the things that make us unique.
Here are seven ways we can celebrate our multicultural heritage in Canberra throughout the year:
1. Take part in the many festivals held throughout the year.
But that's not all! The Philippine Embassy holds a special Filipino style Christmas community celebration in December each year, and the Indonesian Embassy also holds a special Indonesian Festival. And then there's Chinese New Year celebrations around February/March with Chinese Lion Dances and a Chinese Lantern Festival, St Patrick's Day celebrations around the city on and around March 17, the Dutch Food and Culture Festival in April, NAIDOC week celebrating our indigenous heritage in July, and the World Curry Festival.
2. Explore our multicultural landscape. Visit Lennox Gardens in Yarralumla where you will find the beautiful Beijing Garden and the Japanese Nara Peace Park, each garden celebrating the sister city links between Canberra, Beijing and Japan's ancient capital, Nara.
You can also visit the different Buddhist temples in our city such as the Sri Lanka Buddhist Vihara temple in Kambah which holds regular Sri Lankan Food Fairs throughout the year; the Wat Lao Buddhanimith Laotian Buddhist Temple also located in Kambah; and the Lyneham-based Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre which welcomes everyone to their annual lunar new year festival, and the Wat Dhammadharo Thai Buddhist temple in Lyneham which celebrates the Thai Songkran/New Year Festival and Thai Food Fair each year.
Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre, Lyneham Source: Nicole Lawder MLAhttps://www.facebook.com/nicolelawderMLA/photos/a.294264994058442/748734298611507/?type=3&theater
Also, discover more about our rich and ancient indigenous heritage. Aboriginal people have lived in the Canberra region for over 20 000 years. Visit Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and explore its ancient Aboriginal connections. You can also learn more about the First Australians at the National Museum of Australia. And visit the National Gallery of Australia which is home to the world's largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.
4. Learn a language. There really is no better way to fully appreciate and learn about another culture than by learning its language. Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) offers short courses in languages including Arabic, German, Mandarin and Sanskrit. You can also learn French at Alliance Francaise, Italian at Dante Alighieri, and Filipino at Filipino language school.
And for those children learning languages other than English at home, ACT Libraries offers bilingual storytime sessions during school terms. You can find out more here.
6. Watch culturally diverse TV shows and movies and read books that represent cultural diversity.
Watch the SBS and NITV channels on TV which 'normalise' difference and diversity, and that feature far more multicultural and indigenous content than the mainstream channels. And read more books that capture and reflect the truly culturally diverse Australian experience such as Anh Do's The Happiest Refugee, and books by Randa Abdel-Fattah, and by indigenous author Anita Heiss.
7. Finally, get to know your neighbours, your work colleagues, the parents from your children's school you don't usually talk to, the people you meet at the park or playground, the people who work at your local shops, etc... Unfortunately we live in a world where the 'other' and people "who are not like us" are demonised and feared. And so there's no better way to break down the barriers between us by actually talking to people "who are not like us" and getting to know them.
Who knows? We might even end up being friends!
"We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."
Martin Luther King, jnr