Hopes that the postponed National Multicultural Festival could be held later this year have evaporated, with the ACT Government cancelling the event.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs Tara Cheyne said today that the 25th Anniversary of the National Multicultural Festival would now be held next year on the weekend of Friday, 18 February to Sunday, 20 February.
”While we had hoped that we might have been able to hold the Festival at some time in the second half of 2021, developments regarding the pandemic over the last few months mean that a February 2022 National Multicultural Festival is the most practical and achievable,” she said.
”The virus is still circulating and the new variants have thrown up new challenges. We now also have a much better idea about the timelines for the rollout for the vaccine, which is not due to be completed until October 2021.”
Ms Cheyne said the government was committed to ensuring the 25th anniversary National Multicultural Festival retained its core essence and the event remained in Civic, celebrating the ACT’s cultural diversity through food, performances and a parade.
”The National Multicultural Festival has a firm and special place in Canberrans’ hearts. With the next Multicultural Festival being the 25th Anniversary, it is even more important that this auspicious occasion is as close as possible to the look, feel and spirit of the festival that we know and love,” she said.
Ms Cheyne said it was hoped that by then the pandemic threat would have receded and the health advice supported larger events.
“A February 2022 National Multicultural Festival allows us to work to keep the celebration true to the atmosphere and its key components. We are also hopeful that this will be a time when there is health advice that supports, together with strong community confidence about, larger events,” she said.
Ms Cheyne said the government would draw on the successful delivery of other large-scale events in Canberra and nationally including the Australian Open, Enlighten, and the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to deliver a National Multicultural Festival that everyone could enjoy and be COVID safe.
“Staff planning the National Multicultural Festival are currently working with the Enlighten event team to support the delivery of this significant Canberra event and to identify community engagement aspects that will contribute to a successful and safe Festival for all Canberrans,” she said.
Ms Cheyne said the government had already reached out to the many community and commercial groups that participate in and support the Festival as part of planning for the 2022 event.
“I look forward to working closely with Canberra’s vibrant multicultural communities and organisations in shaping a memorable festival,” she said.
Ms Cheyne was working with Treasurer Andrew Barr about carrying over the funding originally allocated to the 2021 Festival to 2022.
The 2020 Festival was able to go ahead before the impact of COVID-19 was felt, but in November the government was forced to scrap plans for a re-shaped COVID-safe event for February 2021, postponing it to later in the year.
The Festival attracts thousands to a packed city centre and is a challenging event to stage safely in the context of COVID-19.