St Margaret's News March 2015 - Page 6

Encounters in Multi-cultural by Joel Congregation member Joel Swadling is a Canberra-based freelance writer, interviewer and literary editor. He writes regularly for the blog ‘’ Joel is currently writing a book-length biography of Canberra theatre actor/director/producer, the late David Branson. Joel has an abiding fondness for the graphic novel medium, and hopes one day to write one of his own. He was commissioned to write about this year’s Multicultural Festival. Here, with permission from the ACT Government, are extracts from the complete piece. On the very day before the opening of Canberra’s 2015 Multicultural Festival, I became involved in a bus-stop conversation with a young Chinese exchange student to the ANU. Explaining the different Action Bus routes to and from our mutual suburb of Kaleen, I turned the subject to Action’s handling of the evacuation of Civic for the Festival. The young man was surprised, but curious, to learn of the emphasis of multicultural focus in our city. Was it, he asked me, being staged to drum up tourism? No, I explained, discovering the reasons as I spoke them: it had more to do with throwing a party to celebrate Canberra’s diversity. It was also being held to gauge our roles within both the broader multiculturalism of Australia as a nation, and our place as an emerging world capital. The young Chinese student seemed convinced and keen to attend. Furthermore, his questions had piqued my own curiosity. I have long cherished Canberra’s Multicultural Festival for its vibrant combinations of sound and colour, its varied offerings of food and music. However, my perspective on Canberra’s role as an emerging world capital has been enhanced in recent times. As I’m sure is the case for many other citizens of Canberra, my experience of the 2013 Centennial celebrations aided in this. In my particular case, my role as writer for the ‘Canberraplaces’ blog since mid2014 has driven this new perspective home. St Margaret’s News So two days later, on Saturday February 14, as I ventured into town for the Festival, I did so with these questions in mind: what kind of World Party was Canberra capable of throwing? And what would such a celebration illustrate concerning our role on the world stage of multiculturalism? Christian brothers and sisters. A fellow Christian myself - though one emphatic of the equality of all religions - this experience provided a vision of a multi-faith spiritual culture which I seek every day. So, writing a week later, this observation of mutual respect My reservations concerning the between persons of differing fractious arrangement of the faiths remains among my festival’s grid began to ease as favourite personal experiences of soon as I settled in to experience the 2015 Multicultural Festival. the Pacific Island Showcase. During my time at this event, I It was also particularly inspiring to witnessed the performances of witness the regal presence of two groups. First, the ‘Helping members of the High Hands Onstage Dancers’, a Commission/Embassy of the Samoan dance troupe. Following Kingdom of Tonga ACT. I was them, the ‘New Generation also impressed by the Dancers’ from the Cook Islands. enthusiastic participation of Tongan citizens, gathered under The crowd-energizing the mantle of the Tongan performances of these groups, Association of the ACT & and particularly their spoken Queanbeyan. introductions to the individual dances, led to a simple but For a brief time, I was able to specific insight. Speaking of witness these groups from behind God’s blessings to them, their tents. In addition to their emphasis upon the key elegant yet humble presence, importance of Biblical teaching watching them greet and embrace within these cultures gave their each other spoke volumes performances a sense of intimacy concerning their sense of shared and spiritual sharing. Despite the community, their spirit of secular setting of the festival, the camaraderie and fraternity. assembled crowd responded with warm reception to these These observations and statements. experiences of the Pacific Island Showcase helped to reorient my As well, during their spiritual appreciation of the Festival. It devotions, the attendees at the caused me to look further than Canberra Islamic Centre stand the stages and the stalls for a (winners of the 2013 ACT sense of multiculturalism.