By Violi Calvert
On Wednesday evening March 21, I was one among over a thousand who attended the seventh year of the Premier’s Harmony Dinner at the Rosehill Gardens Grand Pavilion.
The event, hosted by the Minister for Multiculturalism Ray Williams MP in the presence of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, recognised and celebrated harmony and the significant achievements of NSW multicultural society.
Members of Parliament, business leaders, community leaders, ambassadors, consul-generals and other dignitaries, as well as ethnic and mainstream media organisations were in attendance.
I was fascinated by the vibrant colours of the traditional attire of various nationalities.
There was a festive atmosphere and friendly chatter while we waited for the program to start. There was some delay to accommodate attendees caught in the heavy traffic due to the rainy weather and difficulty with parking.
A strong Filipino-Australian representation led by the Alliance of Philippine Community Organisations (APCO) and the Philippine Community Council of NSW (PCC-NSW) was present. Members of various Filipino-Australian media outlets which included The Filipino Australian were also in attendance.
In his talk, Mr Williams said he was proud to live in a state where people from all walks of life and backgrounds are recognised and celebrated.
“In NSW, we are the sum total of all our diverse cultural backgrounds and [tonight] we celebrate this diversity as one of our greatest assets,” he said.
Premier Berejiklian presented the Lifetime Community Service Medal to Ambrose Dinh, a Vietnamese refugee who pioneered working with the Vietnamese refugee community.
Ms Berejiklian highlighted the 40 years of continuous service that Mr Dinh, who is turning 80 this year, has undertaken for his cultural community.
Ten other Multicultural Community Medals were also awarded. There was cheering each time the names of the awardees of the 2018 Multicultural Community Medals and Honour Roll were announced.
The judges for the various awards comprised of Violet Roumeliotis (2017 Overall Winner of Telstra Businesswoman of the Year), Angelous Frangopoulos, AM (CEO and Managing Editor at Australian News Channel Pty Ltd) and Andrew Jakubowicz, BA PdH FRNS MAICD (Professor Emeritus of Sociology at UTS).
The performers who provided entertainment included Prinnie Stevens & Mahalia Barnes, National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Dance College (NAISA), Sharon Zhai, NSW Federation of Community Language Schools Choir, TalkOZ,and Sankha Ridma Dance Ensemble. Janice Peterson of SBS World News and Andy Trieu lof SBS PopAsia were emcees of the evening.
An additional feature of the celebration was the awarding of the Best Cultural Dress. Much to our delight in the Filipino-Australian groups, the Filipiniana attire worn by Rowena Gonzaga Turnbull was among the ten selected by Ashleigh Kwong, a Sydney-based fashion designer.
We cheered wildly as Rowena was called on stage to showcase the modern version of a Filipiniana attire – a blue gown with the traditional butterfly sleeves and featured with exquisite sequins on the bodice and cascading down on the right side of the gown, accompanied by a matching sequinned bag.
Another Filipino-Australian who drew some attention was Cassandra Myles, Mardi Gras International Charity Queen 2018. Cassandra, wearing her crown and distinctive sash, was requested by many to have photographs with them.
The Filipino Australian congratulates the Ministry for Multiculturalism, the Premier’s Department and all those involved in organising the event which could only be described a success in celebrating multiculturalism and diversity.