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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 March 2015) . . Page.. 1152 ..

MS BERRY (Ginninderra—Minister for Housing, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Community Services, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Minister for Women and Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Social Inclusion and Equality) (4.40): I would like to speak in favour of the motion today. Thank goodness Ms Fitzharris raised it in the Assembly today because it finally gave the Canberra Liberals something to speak passionately about. With their pining for Skywhale to appear during the balloon festival, or appear at all, I feel that there is an absolute crush from the Canberra Liberals for Skywhale. Sometimes if you say it out loud it helps. I was sitting here listening to it and I thought, “Fair dinkum. I can see it for what it is. It’s a crush, and that’s okay. We love her too.”

But it also gives me another opportunity to talk again about the fantastic success of the Multicultural Festival and what it brings to the ACT and our community. When we think about major events, we cannot go past it. This year’s festival was my first major community event since becoming Minister for Multicultural Affairs. This year’s festival was another great success. In fact, it was our best festival on record in its 19-year history, bringing 270,000 local, national and international visitors to the ACT. I think for Enlighten to have reached close to that mark in five years is quite remarkable and it shows the popularity of an event that is quite young in its history in providing entertainment to the ACT community.

The Multicultural Festival evolved from a small celebration of a few hundred individuals and had its genesis during Canberra Week celebrations in 1977. Last week when I was able to thank the volunteers who worked so hard to make the Multicultural Festival the success that it was, I was able to meet Nina, who was one of the first people to start the Multicultural Festival in the ACT. She provided her personal history of the event in her photo albums, which have been made into a banner which shows the history from 1977, from an ethnic festival to now one of the biggest events in the country—certainly in the ACT—our own Multicultural Festival. It was a great honour to meet her and to present a certificate and thank her for the start of something that has been massive and is one of the most popular events in the ACT.

From the more than 100 volunteers that came from as far afield as Sydney, to the performers, sponsors, diplomatic community, community organisations and stall holders—the wide range of support for our festival shows just how significant it is to our community and shows its appeal nationally and internationally. Growing numbers come from out of town and even from overseas to have fun and learn more about other cultures and even make new friends. There were more than 400 multicultural community groups and more than 4,000 community volunteers who worked on stalls providing food, information and craftwork over the three days.

Our festival also draws together and showcases a range of local, interstate and international artists, craftspeople and performers through displays of dance and music, which is well illustrated in the food and dance spectacular. Organisations such as the ACT Community Language Schools Association and the ACT Bilingual Education Alliance support the next generation of festival-goers. And the Canberra Interfaith Forum brings together people from a range of spiritual and cultural backgrounds to discuss social and cultural harmony in our community.

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