Page 53 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 12 February 2008

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year. You have also said that during your visit to China the various officials that you met commented on it. The 2008 festival commenced last Friday. Can you please let Assembly members know how it is progressing?

MR HARGREAVES: I thank the member for the question because the National Multicultural Festival is going gang busters. It commenced last Friday with exceptionally well-patronised opening events with international and Australian acts performing at the Playhouse, the Street Theatre and Civic Square.

I am pleased that, in this historic week when the nation will be apologising to the Indigenous people, one of the most popular attractions and opening performances for the Fringe Festival is the Chooky Dancers. The dancers are Yolngu people and live on Elcho Island near Gove Peninsula. They perform an energetic rendition of the Zorba the Greek dance, which has been a great hit with audiences at the Fringe, the Playhouse and the Greek Glendi. Each time encores were called for.

This has been a wonderful experience for everyone involved. You cannot measure the sense of togetherness and social cohesion that an experience such as this gives the individuals involved—dancers, organisers and audiences. This goes to show that culture and art have no boundaries and that they can be shared and enjoyed by everyone. This example is what the National Multicultural Festival is all about: the sharing of cultural experiences. Just think about it Mr Speaker: an Indigenous group performing a variation of a Greek dance for an audience drawn from the ACT’s 97 ethnic groups.

The National Multicultural Festival 2008 is being lauded as the best of its kind in Australia. It attracts interstate and international performances and audiences. This year the international program includes artists from the Nakshi Kanthar Math of Bangladesh, Varna Folk Dance Ensemble and Krassimira Churtova from Bulgaria, De Muse from Mexico and Collegium Folkrum of Serbia. But wait, there is more. There are the Ku dancers from Taiwan, the Goyam Kulu Dance Troupe from Sri Lanka and the Eurasian Artists from Turkey.

Another fantastic thing about the festival is the way in which the diplomatic community in Canberra has always supported this annual event by facilitating the arrival of the international artists and hosting or jointly organising the performances with local organisations. Last night, for example, I attended a performance of the China Shaanxi Provincial Song and Dance Troupe as the guest of His Excellency the Ambassador of China. During his speech, His Excellency referred to the past support by the Chinese government and local community, and promised future support. This particular troupe was organised during my recent visit to the capital of Shaanxi Province in China. I thank all those involved in making it possible.

This year we are particularly pleased that His Excellency the Ambassador of Bulgaria, Dr Lubomir Todorov, and Mrs Todorov attended the performance of the Bulgarian Varna Folk Dance Ensemble on Sunday, 10 February at the Belconnen community centre and we saw a performance at the botanic gardens of the only female Bulgarian bagpiper.

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