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Victoria embraces cultural diversity

20 March 20150 comments

CulturalDiversityWeek_B3A6358The past week has seen Melbourne come alive with the sights, smells and sounds of Cultural Diversity Week 2015.

Lasting from the 14-22 March, our biggest ever Cultural Diversity Week has helped showcase the many and varied customs and traditions that help to make up the cultural melting pot that is Victoria.

The event is designed to coincide with the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the 21st March.

In the lead up to the week-long celebration, events such as the International Chinese Arts Festival and the Melbourne Japanese Summer Festival set the tone with fabulous displays of local food, music and culture.

The International Chinese Arts Festival, celebrating its 25th year of existence, brought the best of traditional Chinese music, painting and calligraphy across a number of separate events, before concluding celebrations with a concert at the Melbourne Town Hall.

The week officially kicked off with the Premier’s Gala Dinner. Held at the Crown Palladium, guests were treated to a number of multicultural performances as well as a three course meal.

Highlights from Cultural Diversity week include the Turkish Pazar Festival, which saw the Queen Victoria Market transformed for a day into a traditional Turkish bazaar. Visitors were treated to traditional Turkish foods such as kebabs and gozleme, a delicious pancake stuffed with savoury ingredients.

The market stalls were not just limited to food, with Turkish carpets, lamps and plates for sale.

The market included a stage for traditional Turkish musical performances, including the Ottoman Mehter Band, who performed ceremonial military music used to inspire troops.

Other highlights include the Black Harmony Gathering, held at the Fairfield Amphitheatre on Saturday afternoon.

The Black Harmony Gathering seeks to bring together newly arrived cultures in Australia with those of the indigenous peoples, the First Australians.

The event featured musical performances from many different cultures as well as a barbeque with traditional Koori indigenous foods.

The Black Harmony gathering was started by a group of Kooris, Somalis and South Africans, and strives to embrace the principals of reconciliation with a commitment to respect the beliefs and customs of Australia’s First People and newly arrived cultures.

Melbourne’s thriving Jewish community was represented in Cultural Diversity Week, through the street festival In One Voice, held in Elsternwick.

The festival included Jewish food stalls and musical performances, as well as other cultural and sporting activities.

Festival Manager Judith Kirszbaum said that the festival aimed to showcase a side of the Jewish community not often seen by most Australians.

Local councils were also highly involved in Cultural Diversity Week. Hobson’s Bay City Council, in Melbourne’s west, planned 18 different events across the week.

Hobson’s Bay, which includes suburbs such as Altona, Williamstown, Laverton and Spotswood, has a strong multicultural identity which is the reason for the keen involvement in Cultural Diversity Week.

The week concluded in spectacular style with the Viva Victoria festival at Federation Square.

The event encompassed a huge diversity of cultures with over 200 countries represented, be it through food, arts and crafts, sports, languages, or a performance on one of the four stages set up for the event.

With a myriad of activities enjoyed by people of all ages, Cultural Diversity Week saw another year of success, highlighting the breadth and complexity of the traditions of the people who make up Victoria.

In accordance with the theme for the year’s festivities, Strengthening Our Community, Cultural Diversity Week brought together people from different parts of the community to share in the experiences that make the many cultures around the world great.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Senior Journalist