21 August 2018

Government lifts Multicultural Festival alcohol restrictions on community groups, tightens commercial sales

| Ian Bushnell
Join the conversation

The Government has listened to the community and has made changes for next year’s National Multicultural Festival. Photo: Jack Mohr.

The ACT Government has backtracked on its alcohol rules for the National Multicultural Festival after an outcry from smaller clubs and organisations that were denied liquor permits last year.

For the 2019 Festival, a revised alcohol sales policy will allow cultural beverages to be sold by community groups and community clubs, while commercial sales of alcohol will be restricted to local brewers and producers.

The Government has released its review of the 2018 Multicultural Festival, which also recommends improved communication with stallholders, performers, volunteers and CBD business owners.

Minister for Multicultural Affairs Rachel Stephen-Smith said that ahead of the review, the 2018/19 Budget committed $100,000 a year to address the known shortfall in operational funding and an additional $150,000 in 2018/19 for staffing costs.

She said the Government would consider the review’s advice on future funding and arrangements for the festival, including the hiring of a professional events manager, in future Budget considerations.

Ms Stephen-Smith said the decision to restrict alcohol sales for the 2018 Festival was made with the best of intentions to address a concern that had been expressed by stakeholders over a number of years.

“However, the Government also recognised that restricting alcohol sales to commercial stalls and community clubs was not the most appropriate way of achieving the objective; that there was not enough consultation and engagement with multicultural community stakeholders in making the decision; and that the policy was not as well communicated to stallholders and the public as it should have been,” she said.

“This was reflected in the review, and the policy for the 2019 NMF will reflect the feedback received, seeking to balance the range of stakeholder views on the issue.”

These and any other changes to the participation policy for the 2018 NMF will be clearly communicated during the stallholder application process and in the lead-up to the Festival.

Entertainers, stallholders and sponsors will receive regular email updates, the Festival’s online presence will include a mobile-friendly website to replace the Festival App, as well as a streamlined application process and the development of a digital content strategy to strengthen social media.

Information on the revised NMF Participation Policy will be widely disseminated, including changes to the alcohol policy for community groups, plastic-free and recycling strategies, and disability access for the festival.

The 2019 Festival will also open at noon on Friday 15 February, rather than the traditional afternoon start.

The review made recommendations in four key areas:

  • Continuing to deliver a safe and inclusive festival that showcases the ACT’s multicultural diversity, including to maintain the current National Multicultural Festival framework;
  • Improving communication to be more professional, timely and appropriate, including better documentation, the development of a stakeholder engagement approach and improvements to marketing and promotion;
  • Improving efficiency by updating and streamlining Festival documentation; and
  • Committing to disciplined and repeatable organisational processes, with clearer operational guidelines and supporting templates.

“Stallholder applications will open later this month and I encourage our multicultural community groups and all Canberrans to once again embrace the Festival and all that it has to offer in celebrating our city’s diversity,” the Minister said.

Canberra Liberals Multicultural Affairs spokesperson Elizabeth Kikkert said the Government’s change to its alcohol policy was overdue.

“As the Canberra Liberals stated all along, the Labor Government’s policy to ban alcohol sales by ethnic stallholders was plain wrong and defied the spirit of the Multicultural Festival,” she said.

“Canberrans were rightly disappointed to see their own Multicultural Affairs Minister advance a policy that tainted the ethos of multiculturalism that has been celebrated for decades at the annual festival.

“The disappointment turned to anger when it was revealed that in ramming the policy through, Minister Stephen-Smith defied and misrepresented clear advice from ACT Policing.

“This ban should never have been implemented in the first place and I am glad that Minister Stephen-Smith has finally had the sense to lift it. Unfortunately, for many stallholders, the damage has already been done.”

The 2018 National Multicultural Festival Review and supporting documents can be accessed here.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

I go to the Multicultural festival to:
1. Enjoy some time with friends
2. Enjoy some different beers to those you get in any Canberra Liquor Shop.
3. Enjoy food that tastes like it has been maid by someone’s aunt from a far away country.
4. Support the small multicultural organisations that make Canberra a better and more connected Community.

The ACT Government has been slowly reducing my enjoyment of the event by moving away from the things I enjoyed above, by turning the festival into an opportunity for Big Clubs and Mainstream restaurants/caterers to sell you what they sell you 365 days a year.

The Beer options at the last event, were the worst in history and took away one of the key things I liked. Bring back the German library selling some unknown beer, in a weird bottle that was sourced from a tiny brewery from some little known German town. Not 10 stands selling German Becks brewed in Melbourne.

petunia petal11:51 am 22 Aug 18

I’ve noticed a change in the tone and ‘feel’ of the festival over the last decade. I recall the original emphasis being more about multiculturalism in the Canberra community. In recent years its turned more into the ‘meat on a stick and beer’ festival. Its also draws more young people who like the drinking in public and eating festival food aspect of it. It has also brought out the greedy side of vendors who only see it as a chance to flog food and booze and make lots of money. Again, I don’t have a problem with this type of festival but i feel like the festival is now almost trying to be two things at once. The family outing, multicultural side (i.e. a more non profit aspect) and the more rowdy Octoberfest public drinking crowds. I think ACT gov should almost consider two festivals around that time, as clearly Canberrans have an appetite for these types of outdoor events. Also, if there is a budget blow out – make the vendors pay more. They are making a killing and can afford to throw in a few more dollars.

Backtracking at a million miles an hour. Still, it is good to see some commonsense at long last. It was pathetic to see the dead hand of wowserism wreck the Multi-culty this year. I know a lot of people including myself didn’t bother to attend, and it is good to see the overzealousness and bureaucratic small-mindedness being given the boot.

It was counterintuitive to keep this nonsense going for another year while the tourism dollars and the raffish charm of the event sunk simultaneously in the west, and it is good to have our much-loved Canberra institution back again.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.