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Africa Day

Africa Day 2013 Festivities in Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia - Each year, Africa Day provides an opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of the peoples and governments of Africa. Based on UPF’s inter-organizational partnership model of past Africa Day celebrations around the world, Rick McInerheney, Vice-President of UPF-Australia, encouraged John Bellavance and the UPF-Victoria chapter to initiate in 2012 the celebration of Africa Day in Melbourne.

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In 2013, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the African Union was celebrated around the world. Being the second year for Africa Day Melbourne celebrations, the week of events is now a permanent part of Melbourne’s social calendar. The Africa Day Melbourne events were made possible through the financial support from governmental organizations, politicians, and businesses, and the partnerships between various community organizations and the UPF network of Ambassadors for Peace.

Africa Day events welcome new African/Australians to Australian society, acknowledge the benefits they bring to Australia, and emphasize the importance of Africa to Australia and the world.

A central aim of the Africa Day organizing committee is the fostering of cooperation and partnerships between diverse Australian African communities, NGOs, the broader Australian community, and the international community. The networking focused on peacebuilding, collaboration, and development within the social, cultural, and economic arena. An additional aim promotes fulfillment of the human potential by fostering individual empowerment, loving families, and the public good.

The week-long celebrations covered several activities that began with the Emerge Street Festival on May 18 in partnership with Multicultural Arts Victoria, showcasing local African performing arts talent.

African Women's Forum

On May 18, the African Women's Forum highlighted "The Australian Experience: New African/Australian Women and Families" as its focusing theme. All four speakers were Ambassadors for Peace, as was the moderator and emcee. Speakers in session one spoke about "Turning Challenges into Success." Community leaders Mary Riek (CEO of Wang Community Association and Kushland Family Day Care) and Mariam Issa (founder of Resilient Aspiring Women) spoke about the challenges they faced as new Australians to overcome adversities and the personal qualities they drew upon to establish successful organizations, which are now an inspiration to all Australian women. The second session featured Theresa Sengaaga Ssali (Senior Social Worker with the New Hope Foundation) and Diane Simboro (founder of Refugee Women in OZ), speaking about "Strategies to Fast Track Settlement." All speakers have years of experience in African/Australian settlement and shared invaluable insights on best practices for new African/Australians. A networking break between the two sessions (sponsored by the Victorian branch of the Women’s Federation for World Peace) allowed participants to dialogue with service providers and mingle with each other in a relaxed atmosphere.

Africa Day Friendship Cup

Africa Day Friendship Cup was a partnership with the North Melbourne Football Club on May 19. This family-oriented sport festival included a Footy OZ Kick clinic for kids and soccer and basketball tournaments. The community was treated to a free halal barbecue. The competing teams represented a multicultural mix of Australian communities. The grand finale soccer tournament was between the UPF and the Carlton Youth teams. Children also played friendly games of soccer and footy (Australian rules football).

Africa Day Australian-African Dialogue

The Inaugural Africa Day Australian-African Dialogue lecture was given by the Hon. Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, on May 21. This lecture was made possible through a partnership between La Trobe University’s Centre for Dialogue, the Africa Day Steering Committee, the Africa Think Tank, and UPF. Mr. Rudd spoke on the topic of "Africa-Australia Relations: Challenges and Prospects." As both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr. Rudd’s extensive experience and knowledge on this topic was evident. Australia is a good friend of Africa, diplomatically and economically. This support paid off with Australia gaining a seat at the UN Security Council through Africa’s backing, Mr. Rudd said. He also made the case for Africa’s emerging economy and the opportunities this affords Australia. Mr. Rudd conveyed, “Part of the mission of this dialogue is to convey this basic economic message to Australia’s businesses: that Africa is open for business and that African governments have progressively achieved improved governance standards ever the past decade. Therefore, the key basis of the ‘New Africa’ as part of the global dynamics and changes means that Africa is a diverse continent of increasing importance to the world. In geopolitical terms, African countries have increasing influence on international organizations. In resources terms, Africa has vast reserves. In trading terms, the African population represents a huge potential market; and in agricultural terms, Africa’s underutilized arable lands represent great opportunities to feed the world. Africa also continues to face significant challenges, particularly in health, governance, and economic development.” Following a visit to Africa in 2009, the President of the World Bank, Mr. Robert Zoellick, called for the 21st century to be called "the century of Africa." Many other advanced countries are turning their attention towards Africa. It is imperative, therefore, that Australia understands these developments and responds accordingly, Mr. Rudd said.

Melbourne University Forum: Review of the Current Situation

May 23 saw a stimulating forum held at Melbourne University. The topic: progress in the implementation of recommendations of the 2010 report - "In Our Word – Australian Africans: A Review of Human Rights and Social Inclusion Issues" by the Australian Human Rights Commission. This report was the outcome of a three-year consultation process in which African-Australian communities around the country were given the opportunity to tell their settlement experiences, express key barriers preventing them from becoming successfully established in Australian life, and steps taken to address their concerns. The prestigious panel of speakers evaluated the current situation in the light of this 2010 report. The speakers included: Associate Professor Andre Renzaho (School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University), Rivkah Nissim (Principal Adviser, Race Discrimination Team, Australian Human Rights Commission), Tamar Hopkins (Principal Solicitor, Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre), Jane Berry (Community Projects Solicitor, Footscray Community Legal Centre), and Abeselom Nega (CEO of iEmpower). The overall consensus was: Australian government agencies were supportive and making progress, yet more needed to be done to support the successful establishment of Australians from African descent.

Africa’s Got Talent

Africa’s Got Talent is a performing arts competition open to young emerging African Australian artists. This event was attended by a standing-room only crowd of 350. Africa’s Got Talent is based on the commercial models of television shows such as Australia's Got Talent, The Voice, Australian Idol, and X-Factor. Judges included celebrity Deni Hines (Australian R&B Artist), Chris Gill (Northside Records and 3RRR Radio Host), Simon Raynor (Director of Australasian Worldwide Music Expo - AWME), and Blair Stafford (Director of Straightup independent music agency). Judge Deni Hines said she was thrilled to be a part of the talent search. "Africa, as my own origins, is dear to my heart ... there is that innate psyche to move and groove so bring it on," she said. The first prize winner was A Mac, originally from South Sudan. He received five days of recording studio time and a mastered audio CD package from Salt Studio as well as music mentorship at Arts House. The second prize received all access to AWME, dance mentorship at Arts House, and a $400 recording or rehearsal session at Bake House. The third prize winner received a place in a workshop with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Blair Stafford as part of the Melbourne Jazz Festival doing arrangements and compositions and a two-day workshop with Dig Deep's Mentoring Program at the Arts Centre, mentored by Robert Tremlett. Africa’s Got Talent received coverage by major media outlets such as The Age, ABC News, MX Magazine, Melbourne Times Weekly, ABC Radio (Richard Stubbs show), and 3RRR (Chris Gill).

Africa Day Gala Dinner

The evening Gala Dinner on May 25 showcased the best African performing arts, fashion, and food. African Ambassadors in attendance included H.E Jaqueline Zvambila (Ambassador of the Republic of Zimbabwe); Heddie Goldberg (Botswana Honorary Consul); Trent Smyth (Malawi Honorary Consul), and Dr. Apollo Nsubuga-Kyobe (representing the Ugandan Ambassador). In attendance were three members of the Federal parliament, a member of the state parliament, the Chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, State Director of the Victoria Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Deputy Commissioner of Victoria Police, City Council members, and a host of academic and community leaders.

The success of the Africa Day celebrations was possible because of partnerships between the hard-working Africa Day steering committee members, African Think Tank, Zimbabwe Community in Australia (Victoria), UPF, local Council members and employees of the City of Melbourne, Centre for Dialogue (Latrobe University), North Melbourne Football Club, Eritrean Community in Australia, Local Voices for Peace, Pan-African Community of Australia, Multicultural Arts Victoria, the Women’s Federation for World Peace, and other organizations.

Financial support came from the City of Melbourne, Victorian Multicultural Commission, North Melbourne Football Club, Australian Federal Police, UPF-Victoria, Adam Bandt MP, Jennifer Kanis (State Member of Parliament), Salt Studios, Africa Media Australia, Australian Multicultural Foundation, Southern Cross Education Institute, Footscray Halal Meat, Eritrean Community in Australia, Women’s Federation for World Peace (Victoria), Bake House, Arts House, and inTouch.

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