25 September 2020

Why Gungahlin urgently needs a new, built-for-purpose multicultural centre

| Nic Manikis
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National Multicultural Festival

Fair Canberra has called for a new Multicultural Centre venue to be located in Gungahlin, the largest and fastest-growing multicultural community in the ACT. Photo: National Multicultural Festival.

Fair Canberra has been advocating for a new Multicultural Centre to be constructed in (or near) the heart of Gungahlin for the past two years

The call for a new facility in Gungahlin come from Fair Canberra Inc members and others, who have appointed out that existing venues around the city are too small or the commercial rates are too expensive for an increasing number of community members.

When similar calls were made by community groups in the early 2000s, the Stanhope Labor Government didn’t hesitate to put its name to establishing a multicultural centre, opening the doors to the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre in 2005.

The existing centre has served new arrivals to the city and various multicultural groups across Canberra extremely well, but over the past 15 years, many of the major multicultural groups have increased in size and can longer accommodate their members in the existing centre for cultural and other events.

In particular, the African, Muslim, Chinese and Indian communities often attract over 1000 participants to their respective cultural activities and events throughout the year. It is also difficult to find suitably sized venues to accommodate cross-cultural events, meetings and forums co-hosted by several community groups.

Fair Canberra Inc. passed a motion at its 2019 AGM committing to continuing advocacy for a suitable and appropriately located facility. Specifically, its members called for the venue to be located in Gungahlin, the largest and fastest-growing multicultural community in the ACT.

Fair Canberra notes that in August last year the Barr Government moved a motion in the Assembly stating the need for a larger facility for not only our multicultural groups but also for the wider Canberra community and that the facility should be located at EPIC.

While the Barr Government argued the case for a fit-for-purpose facility for our multicultural community and reminded us that over 33 per cent of Gungahlin residents were from multicultural backgrounds, it didn’t commit to a facility specifically designed for those groups.

Rather, the motion made it clear that the facility that would cater to all groups in the community – in other words, another barn-like structure to add to those already on the EPIC site.

The Barr Government motion stated that it would report back to the Assembly on the feasibility of such a centre within 12 months (from 21 August 2019). As of 10 September 2020, Fair Canberra is not aware of any report back to the Assembly.

Come election time, the Barr Government has committed $15 to 20 million for a general community centre, not a fit-for-purpose multicultural centre, in the heart of Gungahlin.

It should also be noted that the ACT Greens have also committed to establishing a community centre in Gungahlin.

The ACT Liberals are the only party to have responded positively to the Gungahlin multicultural community and have committed to a 1500 capacity Multicultural centre in Gungahlin with a $7 million budget. This fit-for-purpose facility will serve the many multicultural community groups, not only in Gungahlin, but across Canberra, extremely well.

A new fit-for-purpose multicultural centre in Gungahlin will play an important role in bringing people together, helping them form friendships and social support networks, helping them to pass on culture and language to the next generation and be a focal point for multicultural community groups to express their respective cultures.

In providing a commitment to establish a new specifically dedicated multicultural centre in Gungahlin, the government would give a clear signal to the multicultural community that it values their contributions, is supportive of the expression of various cultural traditions and stands by Gungahlin residents who wish to transfer their ‘mother tongue’ languages to their children in a safe and well-resourced space.

Fair Canberra believes that investment in cultural and community infrastructure is essential for the health, social wellbeing and economic prosperity of communities. This is why Fair Canberra believes that both a general community centre and a dedicated Multicultural Centre are both required in Gungahlin in the next term of government.

Fair Canberra also asks that the specific features of this facility be shaped by the multicultural community groups themselves and that the new Centre be managed by the ACT Government to ensure fair usage across all the multicultural groups.

Nic Manikis is the president of Fair Canberra Inc., a policy think tank and networking organisation that advocates on issues facing Canberrans from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. He founded the ACT Multicultural Festival.

Original Article published by Nic Manikis on The RiotACT.

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