Page 1013 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 25 February 2009

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cultures and customs that we can all share and learn. This advances us internationally and moves us closer to the rest of the world.

Canberra, as the national capital, was built on a foundation of cultural diversity. Multiculturalism is a way of life that is based on working together to maintain social harmony, equity, equality and respect. The many facets of the Multicultural Festival go to promote people coming together, learning about each other and each other’s culture and working together for a common objective.

This flagship event is also the vehicle for enhancing those valuable intergenerational aspects, the building of social capital and capacity building for individuals and community groups alike. These impact in a positive way on the wider community as well as within the multicultural community. I have in mind grandmothers and grandchildren dancing and cooking together; members of different community groups talking together at the food and dance spectacular; trying each other’s food; and young people learning how to organise and work with other members of communities—working across all age groups with a range of skills and abilities. This government has for many years worked hard to take appropriate action to promote and develop respect and understanding and to appreciate and celebrate the diversity within our community.

The government is committed to providing opportunities for communities to celebrate their unique cultures. The annual National Multicultural Festival is an exemplary example of this. It offers opportunities for cultures that are many thousands of years old to share with us their food, song and cultures that have diversified and changed over time. They bring that to us in our contemporary society.

Of course, the festival has always had strong community focus and a strong community involvement. Through the festival, it is clear that the ACT community is a welcoming community and believes strongly in celebrating multiculturalism. Over the years we have seen greater community involvement in the festival through increased numbers of stallholders, business involvement, sponsors, performers and audiences.

The importance that the community places on celebrating multiculturalism is also keenly reflected in the great number of volunteers who freely give of their time to make the festival such a great success. I cannot speak highly enough of the immeasurable community service made by these volunteers. Again, for me this is remarkably similar to the way in which the festival encourages a diverse range of cultures to work together to reflect and promote our inclusive and harmonious society.

Volunteers at the festival come from all walks of life, reflecting the diversity of the Canberra population. These are people that are so committed to the National Multicultural Festival and to the importance of celebrating multiculturalism that they come from far and wide. I had the pleasure of talking to some volunteers that came from the Snowy Mountains area and Cooma way.

As well as the formal volunteers who participated in the festival under the leadership of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum, I would also like to acknowledge the numerous community groups who volunteer their time to make the 2009 National

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