Lifestyle & Culture

Multiculturalism at UON and Newcastle: Everyone Belongs

Sarah James looks at some of the events happening in Newcastle that promote our multicultural society.

Australia is known as the lucky country. Newcastle, is especially lucky. Endless beaches, genitalia shaped landmarks and of course, the Bakehouse. But what Newcastle is most blessed for is the array of cultures that define the city. 12.4% of people living in Newcastle were born overseas. Thanks to the 6000 international students at UON, we as students are exposed everyday to new perspectives and cultures. In recognition of this, UON and the greater region of Newcastle host numerous events so we not only acknowledge multiculturalism, but celebrate it.

Beaumont Street Carnivale

If you were looking for something free to do last weekend, you definitely missed out if you didn’t stop by the Beaumont Street Carnival. Newcastle’s cultural hotspot came alive. It was fun, it was colourful, it was everything you’d expect from a festival in Rio (except for maybe the scantily clad dancers).


Image courtesy of Justine Cogan

The aim of the annual festival, initiated by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, is to unite the community and showcase what makes Newcastle’s own culture so unique. There was a mixture of cultural displays, markets and street performances. The atmosphere was vibrant, with the three stages of live music bringing everyone to their feet. Local Indonesian, Greek, Irish, Sinhalese, Scottish, Macedonian, Indian and Bangladeshi communities put their fashion on display. For those who felt like getting a little bit more involved (or unleashing their inner Jennifer Lopez), Latin Dance Newcastle hosted a merengue workshop. And what’s more fun than a Bollywood street party?


Image courtesy of Justine Cogan


One of the highlights of the day would be the cooking demonstrations, with the general theme being ‘flavours of the world.’ It’s safe to say most people’s favourite food has origins outside of Australia (bring on that Nasi Goring fried rice), so what’s better than being able to learn how to cook it yourself? Head Chef of Uber Thai, Guitar Salacheep, not only cooks amazing authentic Thai food, but has an incredibly moving backstory that really epitomises Australia’s multicultural heritage. Salacheep began cooking at the age of seven for his family, continuing to utilise century old techniques. Despite having a comfortable life in Thailand, Salacheep decided to chase his food dream, moving to Australia due the vast number of opportunities on offer. Salacheep now owns restaurants in both Sydney and Newcastle.


Image courtesy of Justine Cogan

Harmony Day

In recognition of the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, each year on the 21st of March UON celebrates Harmony Day. This event is more than just a party, with the purpose of the day being to promote inclusiveness and respect for all people. The theme for this year’s Harmony Day is ‘Our Diversity is Our Strength.’ UON will be having events at Callaghan, Ourimbah, Port Macquarie and Sydney campuses. Events promoting the diverse culture, skills, knowledges and experiences of all UON students won’t just be on one day, but lasting for the entirety of Harmony Week.

Harmony Day is not just to acknowledge those born overseas, but also for the people who were the traditional owners of this land. The day will open with an official Welcome to Country at the Wollotuka Institute and a performance by the NAISDA Dance College at the end of the Cultural Trail.


Image courtesy of Student Central Facebook

At Callaghan Campus there will five sites hosting a range of activities that promote the ‘everybody belongs’ message. Everyone loves a free meal, so some great news is that as a part of Harmony Day, students will have the opportunity to try foods from different cultures such as Singaporean, Vietnamese and Persian. The cultural activities on offer include origami and Arabic writing workshops, not to mention great live entertainment. There will also be a UON Human Library where students can engage with stories about diversity, and hopefully learn from each other’s experiences.

Harmony Week will conclude on Friday with what looks like an absolute blast – our own Holi Colour Festival! If you’re unfamiliar with this traditional Hindi festival, basically you have a fantastic excuse to get messy by throwing paint at each other.

The Importance of These Events

Australia has came a long way since the initial United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966. However in saying this, racial discrimination still occurs on a daily basis. According to the the All Together Now Foundation, one in five people living in Australia have suffered racial abuse. This is simply unacceptable. Newcastle is a humanitarian settlement, soon being the home to 7000 Syrian Refugees. It is paramount that these people are embraced into our society. Events like Harmony Day and festivals promoting multiculturalism are needed in order to challenge xenophobia, and encourage individuals to embrace their own culture without fear of prejudice. Hopefully we will continue taking steps towards eradicating discrimination.


Feature image courtesy of Student Central Facebook.

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