National Unity In Diversity Conference , 25 – 26 July 2019
The Queensland Multicultural Action Plan provides hope and encouragement and gives us the focus to act on important community and service development issues that will enhance cohesion and harmony. In line with the direction of this document, and on the eve of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Townsville Cultural Fest (August 2019), the Townsville Intercultural Centre Ltd. is planning a two- day "Unity In Diversity" conference to be held in Brisbane (July 2019).
This conference will provide a platform for those who have a story to share, and have discovered new ways of addressing diversity issues. They will be able to discuss their findings, critique failing strategies and arrive at a common ground for direct input to all levels of policy development.
Now is the time for those who "walk the walk” to come together to lead and direct policy in this area. We are looking for service providers, practitioners, the young and enthusiastic, compassionate humanists, lonely activists and voiceless workers. This conference is for anyone concerned with the future of Multiculturalism in Australia.
The story of the development of the Townsville Cultural Fest, its philosophy and achievements do not fit solely into that of an entertainment event. To set the scene, Townsville was named after a wealthy slave trader, Robert Towns and has a long, sad history of racism. A quick internet search for news and articles about racism in Townsville will leave no doubt that this was not the most comfortable place to develop a community event dedicated to racial harmony and cohesion in 1995. However, by the same token, this also made it a rewarding place to achieve success with such a festival, and that is exactly what the festival organisers intended to do.
The past 25 years have been a highly challenging, but equally rewarding process of trial and error for all those involved. Following are some of the peculiarities of the Townsville Cultural Fest:
Its unconditional inclusion of the entire cross-section of Australian socio-cultural fabric
Making multicultural discourse inclusive of reconciliation issues
Being a self-sustaining, community driven event with minimal government funding dependency
A multicultural event that is supported by both mainstream and Indigenous communities
A festival that does not fit into binaries or constructions of political or media agendas or frames of reference. A festival that avoids the "Us and "Them.” A festival that has room for everyone.
The Townsville Cultural Festival offers a fresh and new opportunity for the community to experience Australian cultural diversity, free from the current baggage of "Multicultural" discourse.
Yet, in spite of all its achievements, and the overwhelming support of the local community, the festival has remained relatively unknown to political policy developers and advisors.
Perhaps, because of its regional location, the festivals' learning and lessons are, for the most part, unrecognised and absent from policy debates and discussions. As a result, Townsville continues to be perceived as a racist community, which flies in the face of the community building taking place, and its potential as a positive role model for policy development.
During the 25th anniversary of our iconic festival, it’s time to try and change that once and for all. Please join us.