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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 November 2021) . . Page.. 3903 ..

National Multicultural Festival 2022—cancellation

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (5.27): I rise today to speak about the recently announced cancellation of next year’s National Multicultural Festival. The festival is an annual event that is important for Canberra as a whole and deeply important for many culturally and linguistically diverse community groups. Attendance of over 200,000 people is not uncommon.

For close to 25 years now, it has provided an excellent way for our diverse community to come together and appreciate many different cultures. For some multicultural communities the festival has been the biggest, or even the sole, fundraising opportunity, with money generated from food and drink sales at the festival supporting charitable activities and/or other events across the year.

For the second year running, this opportunity has now been taken away. After two long years of isolation from each other, an opportunity to come together and renew our ties was exactly what we needed. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the government opted to take the lazy option and cancel the festival for the second consecutive year, to the mass disappointment of many Canberrans.

To use COVID as an excuse is an insult to Canberrans’ intelligence. The government has had since the last festival in February 2020 to prepare for the next Multicultural Festival. We all know that we have just completed three months of lockdown, but the question remains: what was this government doing for the 18 months before we went into lockdown last August? Eighteen months should have been enough time to pull off planning for a festival with a whole range of contingency plans to cope with whatever happened COVID-wise.

I have spoken to people involved in events planning. They have told me exactly the same thing. During the pandemic they have been actively planning events that will happen next year, taking into account all kinds of scenarios and developing plan B, plan C and so forth. But that is not the case for the ACT government. I am not even sure that the minister had a plan A; if she did, a three-month interruption appears to have been enough to scrap the previous 18 months of work!

Canberrans are over this government using COVID-19 as an excuse for its poor performance. The word “unprecedented” has been trotted out too many times. Even the government’s own ministers are starting to recognise that it has been taken too far, as just last week a minister started to use the phrase “close to unprecedented”.

The reality is that this government is lazy, and close to 80 different multicultural groups will now pay the price for it. This incompetence stands in stark contrast to all of the other community events that will be going ahead in the first few months of 2022. That this government lacked the will to do the same for the multicultural community speaks volumes. This government should be ashamed of itself.

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