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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 November 2021) . . Page.. 3632 ..

Community Services Directorate—Part 1.8

MRS JONES (Murrumbidgee) (4.13): In section 1.8 of the budget, we discuss multicultural affairs. Canberra is, as we all know, a wonderful multicultural city. But this Assembly—as it did when it agreed to refer the issue of serious racist attacks to the Education and Community Inclusion Committee for inquiry and report—recognises that not everything is rosy within our community. Nonetheless, we have all pulled together during the COVID-19 pandemic to support one another as best we can.

The cancellation of the National Multicultural Festival is extremely disappointing to the whole Canberra community, and many members of the multicultural community have been in contact with me to say so. Not only is it a wonderful celebration of our diverse community, it is also a really important fundraising opportunity for many of Canberra’s multicultural groups. I welcome Minister Cheyne’s commitment to allow fundraising at ACT government events throughout the year via multicultural showcases. I genuinely hope this is achieved and it proves to be a big plus for these community organisations, who do vital work in promoting wellbeing and social cohesion in our community.

The cancellation of the festival also sheds a light on the fact that the Office for Multicultural Affairs is not heavily staffed. In fact, it has been my view for some years, even since I previously held this portfolio, that the staffing in that area is probably not enough. It has long amazed me how much work is done by such a small team. The team, certainly in the past, has worked across veterans, disability and women portfolio areas too. It is a heavy load for a small team, and I encourage the minister and the government to bolster this team so that we can deliver all the support that the multicultural community and the festival need every year, going forward, without fail.

The building promised at the last election for the multicultural community’s events has not yet been built, nor is it even really underway. Every year there are numerous events across the whole multicultural community, and many groups have trouble finding an appropriate venue. I will continue to press the minister and the government to keep the Assembly updated on this election promise. I hope that this facility is designed to be what it needs to be for the multicultural community: big enough, flexible enough, and available enough for the many great cultural groups and the events that they need it to be built for.

The pandemic has affected some sections of the multicultural community more strongly than others. This year, I took the unusual step of personally supporting some of the larger families in long quarantine via big food boxes of culturally appropriate foods. As a mum of six, I happen to know a lot about feeding big households and how this can be achieved. But this help would not have been possible without the many donors who came on board. Our charity partner is Picking Up The Peaces, with Kate Tonacia AO and her husband and veteran AFP officer who served in the Solomon Islands, David Tonacia. They run a great mental health charity which also assists stressed communities.

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