Cultural diversity in the spotlight at Bendigo festival

SONGBIRD: Artist Stella Levak with the prototype for her Bendigo Festival of Cultures project, to be displayed at Bendigo Library. Picture: EMMA D'AGOSTINO
SONGBIRD: Artist Stella Levak with the prototype for her Bendigo Festival of Cultures project, to be displayed at Bendigo Library. Picture: EMMA D'AGOSTINO

RELATED: Central Victoria prepares for 2017 Bendigo Festival of Cultures

After being ‘monoculture’ for many years, community partnerships manager Steven Abbott said the City of Greater Bendigo was regaining some of its cultural diversity. 

Though the results of the most recent Census will reveal more about the city’s population, Mr Abbott said the growth in citizenship ceremonies and service organisations such as Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services indicated Bendigo was becoming increasingly multicultural.

“The City of Greater Bendigo wants to be one of the most liveable communities around, and cultural inclusion and social cohesion is really important for a city to be liveable,” he said. 

The city saw a 178 per cent rise in new Australian citizens from 2011 to 2014.

There was a 26 per cent increase in the number of people who were born overseas in the five years from the 2006 census.

By 2011, seven per cent of Greater Bendigo residents were born overseas, and two per cent of households spoke a language other than English at home. 

The city was home to 665 people born in New Zealand, 325 from India, 297 from the Netherlands, 253 from the Philippines, and 244 people born in Germany.

More than 100 Bendigo residents were born in China, Thailand, South Africa, Italy, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the United States of America and Ireland respectively. 

Mr Abbott said 95 per cent of the city’s residents were supportive of cultural diversity. He said events such as the Festival of Cultures, which starts on Saturday, were important to normalise the many and varied cultures in the community. 

Though home to people from all over the globe during the height of the gold rush, Mr Abbott said Bendigo’s diversity started to dwindle as discoveries of precious metal became more scarce. 

The City of Greater Bendigo intends to engage the community in discussions about cultural diversity as its population grows. 

“We need to continue to have a really open, respectful dialogue,” Mr Abbott said. 

The city’s cultural diversity and inclusion plan – its first – highlights the need for residents from culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse backgrounds to have equal opportunities to access appropriate services and fully participate in the community; and to prevent or address religious and racial discrimination.