Page 3444 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 23 September 2015

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I would like to acknowledge Minister Joy Burch, the former minister for multicultural affairs, who delivered the last multicultural strategy and, through it, delivered more effective services to people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, promoted an inclusive and harmonious community and provided genuine opportunities to assist Canberrans to reach their full potential.

Since the last multicultural strategy, there have been significant and meaningful opportunities for the community to engage with the government about multiculturalism through the Canberra culture discussion paper and through forums such as the one Canberra multicultural symposium, which 110 people attended, including representatives from the human rights and discrimination commission, community councils, the Student Congress, the Australian Red Cross and many interfaith organisations. This symposium resulted in 20 action items, the implementation of which has been overseen by the one Canberra reference group.

The 2014 ACT multicultural summit had more than 100 people from local organisations, including Migrant and Refugee Resettlement Services, Legal Aid, the Canberra Islamic Centre, Canberra Refugee Support, the Canberra Interfaith Forum and the Australian National University.

I am pleased to advise that these forums have informed our next multicultural framework and the associated action plan, which I look forward to releasing in the near future. This work will ensure that Canberra continues to be an inclusive and cohesive society which draws on its cultural and linguistic diversity to enhance the social, cultural, economic and civil development of the ACT and the wellbeing of all Canberrans.

There are many events that complement this work and promote harmony and celebrate our rich cultural diversity by allowing and encouraging people to interact and learn about each other’s cultural heritage, religious beliefs and languages.

One of the best demonstrations of how cultural acceptance and community participation have developed is the massive growth and expansion of our annual National Multicultural Festival, which has become Australia’s premier celebration of cultural diversity. This year more than 270,000 people attended the event over three days in February, proving that our community’s acceptance of multiculturalism and cultural diversity is at an all-time high. In 2016 we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Multicultural Festival.

Another event is windows to the world, which was first held during 2013 as part of our city’s centenary celebrations. In that year, 35 diplomatic missions participated and visitor numbers were estimated to be around 35,000 over the four weekends. The ACT government is very pleased to have supported the return of the program in 2015. The number of participating missions has increased significantly, to 50, and the response from the public has been extremely positive.

These events are a wonderful showcase of our city and connect people through new experiences of all of our diverse cultures.

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