“A vibrant community festival with powerful messages, pride and spirit”
People from many different backgrounds gathered to celebrate this year’s World Refugee Day Festival setting in Jingili Water Gardens, on a Saturday afternoon in June. The festival truly showed the wider community what “community” and being part of it means to people from refugee background and what they have to offer their adopted home in the richness of their experience and culture. This maturing community event was the culmination of months of collaboration and an increasing ownership of the event by the community who managed with confidence the delegated responsibility.
Twice as many people as last year, well over a thousand, enjoyed the diverse and vibrant program of cultural performances, interactive stalls and kids’ activities. An official citizenship ceremony hosted by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship with Senator Trish Crossin was held and meant the final legal step in the journey to become an Australian citizen.
A varied performance program was planned in conjunction with the Multicultural Council NT and Darwin Community Arts including a Welcome to Country for the newest Australians from the oldest. There was a rare cultural exchange between the emerging Karen community and Aboriginal elder Kath Mills singing together her song “Arafura Pearl”. The multicultural performances from Cambodian, Indonesian, Bhutanese and Burundi dancers highlighted the local cultural diversity for a wider audience. The Madi Sudanese dancers gave a stunning first performance with live drumming in their new costumes (enabled by a grant from Office of Multicultural Affairs). An outstanding Hip Hop choreography by students from Darwin High School Intensive English Unit demonstrated how students from ten different backgrounds come together, collaborate and create a dynamic way of interaction and expression. As the “African Brothers” drummers from Sudan, Liberia, Congo and Gambia pounded out their drum beats at the finale, dancers and the crowd were calling out for more. This was the first time that the “African Brothers” performed together, a unique performance in Australia!
As kids explored the adventure land of activities such as face painting and making kites with Restoring Hope messages, the youth could chill out in their Youth Area and join in playing AFL. The interactive stalls run by Refugee Support Network members such as Relationships Australia, AMEP, Early Childhood Australia, Kidsafe, NT Council for Human Rights Education, AFL NT, DASSAN & KASSAN, Centrelink, Red Cross, DCC, African Beauty, Georgette African Fashion & Boutique, Darwin Community Legal Service, Top End Women’s Legal Service and the Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission ensured more interactive, dynamic participation.
The popular ‘World Food’ stalls coordinated by My Sister’s Kitchen and managed by community cooks were running out of food after high demand. The food stalls featured tasty meals from 8 different countries, including Congolese, Iranian, Bhutanese, Burmese, East African, Somali, Burundi and Liberian.
Yassin’s poetic Hazara speech brought home the realities of the refugee situation world wide and how lucky we all are. It makes us realize that we are just a small part of the refugee world and during refugee week we think about the millions of people displaced and surviving without protection across the world.
A big thank you to our sponsor Department of Immigration and Citizenship and our partners City of Darwin, Darwin Community Arts and Multicultural Council of the NT. Thanks to all the interactive stalls, cooks, performers, communities and volunteers who put their heart into making World Refugee Day happen as the festival in its present very popular form is highly dependent on in kind good will. As an official event of the National World Refugee Day Council, the festival was a shining example of how hope can be restored and people from different cultural backgrounds come together and celebrate their contribution to an Australian society, free of fear.
Enjoy some impressions of this special and meaningful community celebration in our Photo Gallery and by watching the ABC report Putting Out the Welcome Mat – Published on June 15, 2012 by NewsOnABC.