When you think of the Townsville Cultural Festival, depending on how much you know about the event, you might be aware of the enormous amount of work that goes into making it happen. You might be aware of the, literally thousands of hours that it takes to plan and prepare it, you might understand some of the massive expenses involved, and you might even appreciate the tiny, seemingly insignificant details that one has to consider when creating an event of such proportions.

If you've ever tried to cater to the needs of a few dozen people in your home or even a few hundred people at a music gig, you can imagine the amount of effort and consideration it takes to cater for over 15,000 people and to see to the needs and requests of over 1200 performers, stall holders, musicians and artists. It is a mammoth task and one that cannot be adequately explained to anyone who has not seen it from the inside, and from behind the scenes. 

When you think of the Townsville Cultural Festival, or when you consider what I just told you, you might begin to understand that there is some degree of selflessness and sacrifice involved in order to make this event possible. Surely someone has to give up some sleep along the way, certainly, some performing groups and even contractors will discount their fees, without doubt, staff will go above and beyond the call of duty and not log overtime, it is quite clear and obvious that sacrifices are made by a great number of individuals in order to bring this event into reality each year.

But you'd never guess that the person who has sacrificed the most for this event, the one person who has given up more than anyone can ever claim to have sacrificed for this festival, is a woman who lives 1600 kilometres away. My mum, Lida Daliri.



You see, my father started this festival twenty-three years ago. When I was ten years old a few hundred people got together to celebrate Unity in Diversity, a theme my father thought was worthy of dedicating his life to. A theme and an idea that he thought would build community, create a sense of unity, comradery and foster kindness and compassion for one another. As the years went on, the event grew, and so did my sisters and I. 

At 19 I decided to move to Brisbane for university. When I was 20, my sisters wanted to join me in Brisbane for the same reason. My parents decided that mum would move with the girls to Brisbane and dad would soon follow...

In the meantime, my dad would travel backwards and forwards every second week, between Townsville and Brisbane. Two weeks in Townsville, a week or two in Brisbane, two weeks in Townsville, a week or two in Brisbane, for the entire year. Every year. For 14 years...

You see, the festival is not just a festival, it's actually a community development project of the Townsville Intercultural Centre, a not-for-profit NGO that sees to the needs of many communities, and offers a wide range of services to the unemployed, to youth, to migrants and refugees. And in order to see the festival continue, my father hasn't been able to leave his position as the director of the Townsville Intercultural Centre, as that would have meant the end of the Townsville Cultural Festival. So while mum lives in Brisbane working as a refugee settlement support worker, dad continues to live between the two cities and away from home half of the year.

For 14 years, my mum has lived and worked in Brisbane, while my father has lived between two cities. My mum, put up with the weeks away at a time, that didn't come with the salary of someone who works in the mines because she knows how much this event meant to my father, and what it has done and continues to do for the city, and the region. 

The Townsville Cultural Festival breaks down barriers and misconceptions, it melts prejudices, it welcomes new families, makes people feel at home, it creates a sense of family, instills self-confidence in young refugee children, it brings tears of joy to the eyes of old and aging elders of Papua New Guinea, Torres Strait and Aboriginal communities as they see their young ones on stage, it creates jobs, it's launched musical careers, it has seeded businesses, and given long-term unemployed adults the skills and experience they need to re-enter the workforce. There is no end to the ways this event has changed this region.

And in order for it to continue my mum had to share her husband with the festival. She was prepared to only have him around half the time, she was prepared to go weeks without seeing him, even as they both grew old, and still to this day she continues to work and live in Brisbane while dad shuffles between the two cities to ensure the survival of the event. An event that he just does because he believes in it. 

All because of this woman Lida Daliri, who was willing to have her husband away from home every other week for 14 years, so others could feel at home in this country. And each year when you come through those gates at Townsville Cultural Festival, you'll hear her high pitched laughter piercing through the box office as she volunteers her time to welcome you all in. So this year, take the time to say "Thank You Lida" as you come in. While you're at it, you can thank Maureen as well.

I'll tell you about her, another day...