Multicultural summit discusses diversity in Ballarat

IT was a cultural melting pot at the Town Hall when the City of Ballarat held a summit discussing diversity. 

Multicultural ambassadors Aisha Aboulfadil and Lia Andanar Yu take part in the Ballarat Multicultural Summit at the Town Hall. PICTURE: DYLAN BURNS

Multicultural ambassadors Aisha Aboulfadil and Lia Andanar Yu take part in the Ballarat Multicultural Summit at the Town Hall. PICTURE: DYLAN BURNS

More than 60 people attended the Ballarat Multicultural Summit on Wednesday which drew together almost 37 different cultures and discussed the core issues facing migrants and refugees.

The city’s general manager of people and communities, Neville Ivey, said the purpose of summit was to revise the goals of the council’s four-year Cultural Diversity Strategy.

“In our last strategy we established 30 different actions to improve the inclusion of migrant and refugees,” Mr Ivey said. 

“This summit is about us being held accountable for those actions and working out new ways we can improve on principles we already have in place.”

Mr Ivey said all the actions in the last strategy had been implemented over four years, including the establishment of a permanent centralised multicultural hub at the Ballarat library. 

Ballarat councillor John Phillips said the announcement of the city as a Refugee Welcome Zone earlier this year had been pivotal in unifying the community. 

He said migrants and refugees brought new life and a wealth of skills to the community. 

“It was an important statement from council saying we encourage and welcome diversity of any kind in our community,” Cr Phillips said.

“To get out there on the front foot and say we embrace multiculturalism in all its forms encourages people to get out and about and come to the city.” 

Multicultural ambassadors Aisha Aboulfadil and Lia Andanar Yu said the summit was a chance for key members of the community and migrants to share their stories and devise ways in which other migrants and refugees could feel more at home. 

Ms Andanar Yu moved to Ballarat from the Philippines with her family in 2012.

The mother-of-two said the council’s new Cultural Diversity Strategy was a “living” document and the goals laid out must continue to be implemented in the community.

“The underlying principles of inclusion and seeking to understand all types of diversity apply for every culture,” Ms Andanar Yu said.

“When I arrived here with my two children and husband, I immediately felt so welcome. I knew that my children would have so many opportunities here that they may never have had back in our homeland.”

Her words were echoed by Ms Aboulfadil, who is of Moroccan decent. 

Ms Aboulfadi said since the last strategy was devised, new cultures had come to Ballarat including a growing Hazara community.

She said the new strategy needed to include ways of connecting newly emerging communities. 

The summit was a collaboration between the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, Ballarat Community Health Centre, Centre For Multicultural Youth and the City of Ballarat. 

The findings of the summit will be used to as a blueprint to devise The City’s new Cultural Diversity Strategy 2015 - 2019.

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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