by Susan Cheong
“The Africulture Festival provides a place for new African Australians to find support services that may assist them in employment, accommodation and other essential areas for settlement,” says Andrew McBride, of the Auburn City Council.
The 4th Africulture Festival, held at Auburn Park on Saturday 17 March, was organized by members of the local community.
Mr McBride estimates over 4000 people attended the event to celebrate the rich heritage and diverse culture of Africa.
Representatives of the Australian Human Rights Commission and LawAccess NSW attended the festival to provide assistance to the African community.
“We do a lot of work with the African community, including issues of racial discrimination,” says Christine Ratnasingham, of the Australian Human Rights Commission. “We’re here to let them know this is a place where they can bring a complaint forward.”
Fatma Isir, a Somali community worker and member of the organising committee says the Africulture Festival also promotes the engagement of cross-cultural friendships, cultural identity and wider understanding within the Australian community.
“There is a lot of stigmatising of African refugees,” Ms Isir says. “When people think of African people, they think they’re all the same.”
This year’s celebration was attended by people from 23 African countries including Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Valentine Njeri, a Kenyan-born Australian, says the festival is also used as a marketing device to showcase African products to the community and to help those less fortunate back in Africa.
“Some women in Africa want to be able to afford the basic things,” she says. “We buy African baskets and sandals from them and by doing this we are helping them.”
With the community’s continuing interest and sponsorship, Ms Isir hopes the spectacle of the Africulture Festival moves beyond Auburn Park to become an important annual event on the Sydney calendar.