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Cancellation of the National Multicultural Festival

The ACT Government has had 18 months to prepare for the 2022 National Multicultural Festival. Instead, the minister recently announced that the festival would be cancelled because the pandemic had not given her team enough time to plan for it, even though other government-sponsored events are going ahead. The festival is the biggest or sole fundraising event for many community groups, and after two years of isolation from each other, we needed it to go forward.

I have spoken to people who work in events planning. They have all been busy planning for next year, taking into account all kinds of scenarios and developing plans B, C and so forth. Not the ACT Government, which appears not event to have had a plan A. In the Assembly today, I called out the minister and her government for letting 80 different multicultural groups and the entire Canberra community down.

Click on the arrow button to read my speech.

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I rise today to speak about the recently announced cancellation of next year’s National Multicultural Festival. The festival is an annual event that is important for Canberra as a whole and deeply important for many culturally and linguistically diverse community groups. Attendance of over two hundred thousand people is not uncommon.

For close to 25 years now, it has provided an excellent way for our diverse community to come together and appreciate many different cultures. For some multicultural communities, the festival has been the biggest or even sole fundraising opportunity, with money generated from food and drink sales at the festival supporting charitable activities and/or other events across the year. For the second year running, this opportunity has now been taken away.

And after two long years of isolation from each other, an opportunity to come together and renew our ties was exactly what we needed. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the government opted to take the lazy option and cancel the festival for the second consecutive year to the mass disappointment of many Canberrans.

To use Covid as an excuse is an insult to Canberrans’ intelligence. The government has had since the last festival in February 2020 to prepare for the next Multicultural Festival. We all know that we just completed three months of lockdown, but the question remains: What was this government doing for the 18 months before we went into lockdown this past August? Eighteen months should have been enough time to pull off the planning of a festival with a whole range of contingency plans to cope with whatever happened Covid-wise.

I have spoken to people involved in events planning. They have told me the exact same thing. During the pandemic, they have been actively planning events that will happen next year, taking into account all kinds of scenarios and developing plan B, plan C and so forth. But not the ACT Government. I’m not even sure the minister had a plan A, but if she did, a three-month interruption appears to have been enough to scrap the previous 18 months of work.

Canberrans are over this government using Covid-19 as an excuse for their poor performance. The word unprecedented has been trotted out too many times, and even the government's own ministers are starting to recognise they have taken it too far as just last week a minister started to use the phrase ‘close-to unprecedented’.

The reality is that this government is lazy, and close to 80 different multicultural groups will now pay the price for it. This incompetence stands in stark contrast to all the other community events that will be going ahead in the first few months of 2022. That this government lacked the will to do the same for the multicultural community speaks volumes. This government should be ashamed.

Thank you.


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