The decision to skip this year’s National Multicultural Festival entirely was announced by ACT Minister for Multicultural Affairs Tara Cheyne today, 17 February, on the eve of what would have been the Festival’s 25th anniversary.
While there was previously hope the festival could run in the latter half of 2021, Ms Cheyne – whose portfolio also includes Arts and Economic Development – said waiting until 2022 was the most “practical and achievable” strategy.
“The virus is still circulating and the new variants have thrown up new challenges,” she said.
“We now also have a much better idea about the timelines for the rollout for the vaccine, which is not due to be completed until October 2021.”
The festival is typically spread across the city centre and is known for thick crowds, long rows of food stalls offering dishes from around the globe, and vibrant live performances across multiple locations.
Ms Cheyne said the Multicultural Festival held a firm and special place in Canberrans’ hearts and, given the next festival will mark a significant anniversary, it was even more important that it was “as close as possible to the original look, feel and spirit of the festival”.
“A February 2022 National Multicultural Festival allows us to best work to keep the celebration true to the atmosphere and its key components,” she said.
“We are also hopeful that this will be a time when there is health advice that supports, together with strong community confidence about, larger events.”
The decision attracted strong criticism from Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs Giulia Jones, who said it was disappointing there was no “creative and safe” alternative event planned by the Government.
“The Minister as recently as November said that the event would be postponed, but now we learn they’ve given up completely,” she said in a statement.
“The Minister should have been upfront from the beginning.”
Mrs Jones said many multicultural communities will be disappointed, and cancelling the festival meant an opportunity to raise funds for small community groups was also lost.
In 2020 the National Multicultural Festival was one of the last major events before COVID-19 restrictions were imposed, and approximately 200,000 people attended between 21-23 February.
Last year’s festival was expanded to include three family spaces in Glebe Park, Civic Library and Canberra Museum and Gallery.
There were over 350 stalls and 150 performers from across six continents, and an impressive 2,000 performers took part in the Annual National Multicultural Festival Parade.
Other annual events that are cancelled for 2021 include the Royal Canberra Show and the National Folk Festival.
Coming up on the Canberra events calendar, Enlighten Festival has been given the go ahead to run for 17 days from 26 February and will include food vendors in Enlighten Alley and the Bentspoke Beer Garden.
Learn how to stay COVID-safe at events in the ACT here.