13 December 2023

Celebrating 50 years of multicultural Australia with support for Afghan-Australians

| Morgan Kenyon
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Funds raised in November were given to the Fair Human Foundation to support settlement through local education, employment, health, housing, transport and more. Photos: Fair Canberra, MARSS, Fair Human Foundation.

More than 500 Canberrans brought the year to a close with multiple causes in mind as they gathered to honour champions of the local multicultural community.

Local organisations Fair Canberra and Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services (MARSS) congregated in the Hellenic Club’s Olympus room for a triple celebration – 40 years of MARSS service, the impressive impact of Hellenic’s cultural efforts and half a century of Australia’s policy of multiculturalism.

Organised by Fair Canberra, the gala raised funds for Afghan-Australian families facing disadvantage in the ACT, many having recently left their home country after experiencing persecution, poverty and political unrest.

READ ALSO Hellenic Club’s transformative precinct redevelopment in Woden gets green light

Fair Canberra’s president Dr Krishna Nadimpalli said it was an important opportunity to reflect upon the hardship of others and reward the efforts of many.

“Our journey has brought about wonderous success since 1973, when then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s report ‘A multicultural society for the future’ marked the birth of contemporary multicultural Australia,” he said.

“Tonight, we recognise the contributions of one of the earliest migration groups, from Greece, with a salute to the Hellenic Club and one of the newest migration groups, from Afghanistan, with a fundraiser for recently arrived families as they start their journey.

“Australia is a peaceful nest for many disadvantaged people seeking refuge, arriving with nothing but the clothes on their backs and some photos of family either lost or left behind. This is a very brave thing to do indeed and I salute them by saying ‘we are with you’.”

Raffles and auctions went off with a bang, each supporting the Afghan community in Canberra. Cross-cultural performances displayed music and dance from Iran, Tonga, Afghanistan, Greece, India and beyond.

The event also acknowledged First Nation leaders with a speech from Ngunnawal elder Warren Daley.

A voracious supporter of vulnerable women and children from Afghanistan, the Fair Human Foundation said November’s crowd represented Canberra’s “collective heartbeat of compassion, as champions of hope and as a force for change”.

“Your generosity is more than just a financial contribution,” the foundation said.

“It is a lifeline to those who have been drowning in despair. It is the embrace of hope for a people who have endured years of hardship… a beacon of light in the darkest of times.”

READ MORE This organisation is working quietly and effectively for a fairer Canberra

Woden’s Hellenic Club is the largest ethnic club in Canberra and has been operating since the early 1970s, built by first-generation Greek Canberrans who pooled their resources to establish a community hub.

Club president Andrew Satsias spoke on its pride, history and future plans, which start strong in 2024 with the first phases of Hellenic’s entertainment precinct transformation.

“We are about to embark on an exciting next phase with a major renovation, to ensure our services continue to respond to the needs of our ever-increasing number of members,” he said.

“Our club is a headquarters and second home for anyone. Hellenic culture is to share what we have, whether it be food, resources, knowledge, security or care, and to be recognised so graciously is incredible.”

Sonia Di Mezza, interim CEO for MARSS, wants Canberrans to know that refugees are still struggling to assimilate into the community, learn to speak, read and write English, and find a job to support their families.

“Settling in and finding a sense of belonging should be something these families can count on, especially when they have been through so much,” she told Region.

“If you’d like to contribute, you can certainly donate time, money and resources, which are always needed, but one of the best things you can do is just be kind.

“Make an effort to listen, understand and be supportive. A friendly face goes a long way when you’ve left everything you know behind.”

To support Afghan-Australians in Canberra or find out more about aid programs, visit Fair Canberra, MARSS or the Fair Human Foundation.

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Peter Graves12:08 pm 15 Dec 23

Thanks for this ceremony. It is so true that “refugees are still struggling to assimilate into the community, learn to speak, read and write English, and find a job to support their families.”

Especially those who manage to make it from Afghanistan. Since the majority of Australia’s troops were withdrawn in 2014, this country rarely makes the news in Australia.

Until the fall of Kabul in 2021, when Australia could only send C130J aircraft to assist in evacuations, holding a maximum of 124 passengers. Contrast this with the USAF using its C.17s – one of which flew off with over 600 Afghans crammed inside.

Now Pakistan is forcing Afghan refugees there to move back to Afghanistan, without homes, resources or hope.

Hope is what Australia can offer refugees – from Afghanistan, from Ukraine – from wherever.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair.

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