Celebrate our Australian culture united with pride
WHEN people pass by 155 Nathan St, across the road from the local McDonald’s restaurant, they can see a few large sculptures representing Ned Kelly, Johnathan Thurston, Slim Dusty, an Aboriginal lore man, a huge horse and wagon and the iconic Jolly Swagman. What a bizarre combination! Slim is busy with his guitar, King Bundawaal is playing his didgeridoo, JT is ready for the next win, the Swagman is holding his billy and Ned is clutching his gun! Often tourists stop by and take photos, thinking this is a high- profile tourist attraction which had been left off their location attractions guidebook.
Soon they realise this is the office of the Townsville Cultural Fest and these giant art features are reflections of the commitment the festival has made to uphold and celebrate the true Australian cultural narrative, inclus- ive of all of its history and diversity.
After 23 years, there are still some people in Townsville who are not sure about what this show is about! These are the people who have missed the Townsville Cultural Fest during the last few years. I hope they don’t miss it again this year because I truly believe that it is unique and the people of Townsville should be proud of this homegrown and unifying event, which is committed to bringing Australians of all backgrounds together, within the framework of the Australian cultural narrative.
With over 3000 mostly local people representing 275 participating groups of musicians, cultural performers, workshop presenters, healers, food operators, artists and crafts people, educators, entertainers and spiritual coaches, the festival is set to undermine divisive multiculturalism and celebrate Australia with our “Unity in Diversity” space.
Over the past two decades this festival has worked relentlessly to counteract cultural divisions within the whole community. As festival founder, I have always advocated for acknowledgment of the indigenous people’s history and the Australian unique, inclusive and independent cultural narrative which is the only true basis for community cohesion. No other culture but Australian culture has a proven record of accepting diversity and addressing its past mistakes with fairness and equity. And this is worthy of celebration and national pride.
I made the Ned Kelly sculpture, because he stood up for what he believed was right and fair and that is how his legend became the critical underpinning element of Australia’s culture – a fair go for all. I made the Jolly Swagman sculpture based on Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda because his tale is ingrained in the DNA of Australian culture. The Swagman’s story of a hardworking travelling labourer, whose tenacity in securing a jumbuck has ensured his footprint and sweat has touched every Australian farming community. The Aboriginal lore man has come life based on Slim Dusty’s King to Bundawaal and represents the early development of Australia’s reconciliation process, which was supported by the legendary Australian country musician Slim Dusty. Slim’s stories painted sceneries of the emerging Australian cultural narrative with all its colours, joys, hardships, droughts, wars, farmers, Aboriginal people and the pub with no beer. His song and music is pure and facilitates a culture blind. Slim narrated what he saw with honesty and simplicity.
The JT statue symbolises our community’s unity and oneness which includes everything from our Dreamtime legends to the recently arrived refugees.
And this is the Australian way; seeing no colour or type, but simply wonderful and interesting people with all sorts of stories to share. And that is what the Townsville Cultural Fest is about – simply sharing and enjoying the freedom and dignity of the space within which we share and celebrate with Unity In Diversity.
Come along and celebrate Australia with pride and joy.