Miss Africa Canberra
Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Although Africa is sometimes mistakenly thought of as a single country, it is actually the world’s second largest continent, in both area and population. The landmass is characterised by great diversity in both geography and people. To give just one example, its 1.2 billion inhabitants speak more than 1,500 languages. These numbers are matched by Africa’s cultural diversity.
Canberra is fortunate to have a growing population of residents who were born in Africa or who trace their ancestry there, and events that showcase our African multicultural communities are increasingly common. This past April, for example, was the launching of the territory’s first Africa Party in the Park – an opportunity to enjoy African food, arts, fashion, music and dance. This was followed by the African Australian Awards Dinner, which is now held in Canberra each year. This celebration recognises the tireless service of many individuals, and this year the program also featured the Watoto Children’s Choir from Uganda as special guests. I congratulate Charles Koker, coordinator of the event, for putting together such a moving celebration of the many contributions that African Australians make to our city.
Another new event was launched one month ago on the 29 September. The Miss Africa Canberra Pageant was staged to celebrate the cultural diversity of the capital’s young African Australians and to bring the whole community together for an evening of fun and cultural exchange. Different to other pageants, contestants were invited to model traditional dress in addition to sharing their talents and knowledge. The organisers of this event saw it as an opportunity to encourage African Australians who were born here or who primarily grew up here to reconnect with their families’ cultures and traditions.
I rise today to congratulate Mr Kofi Osei Bonsu and his team for putting together a thoroughly enjoyable spectacular. I also wish to thank them for kindly extending to me an invitation to participate. Over 350 people attended on the evening, and the mood was one of jubilation.
I loved seeing the contestants from various African nationalities honouring their heritage through beautiful clothing inspired by traditional African styles, as well as through their performances. The diversity in colour and design was a delight to the eye. More important, however, were the contestants’ answers to the judging panel’s questions, proving that they all had massive hearts filled with charity and deep desires to reach out and help others. I was inspired, Madam Speaker, by each of these young women.
The winner of the pageant epitomises this inspiration. Nettie Kamanda was born the eldest of six children in the West African nation of Liberia and survived not one but two civil wars before the age of nine. Thankfully, she and her family then found welcoming refuge here in Australia.
‘It doesn’t matter what your family circumstances were nor what you have been through’, she said, ‘because the past is a lesson and not a sentence’. She also paid great tribute to the importance of her family and their faith and principles, quote: ‘If you instil the right values in a girl while she is still young, she will grow into a strong woman’, she explained, ‘because no matter how tough life may be, she will always move forward because of that strong foundation’. I have no doubt that she will benefit greatly from the professional internship that has been offered to her as the winner of this event.
I have repeatedly stated in this space, Madam Speaker, that the richness of our multicultural communities makes Canberra stronger. I think we can clearly say that this is the case when we consider the example of Miss Kamanda and the other strong, resilient, capable and beautifully diverse young women who showcased the wonders of Africa at this recent event. I understand that the organisers are already busy planning next year’s pageant and other similar events. I greatly look forward to these and to seeing our African communities assume an ever-larger role in the social and civic life of this territory.