Sherlita Hart, President of the Filipino Australian Association of Ballarat (FAABI), expressed enthusiasm as she opened this year’s FAABI’s celebration of the Harmony Festival in Ballarat, some 120 kms from Melbourne.

Harmony Festival, first launched in 2010, is a collaboration between the City of Ballarat and numerous community groups to promote diversity through the sharing of cultural expressions in terms of music, dance, food, story-telling or discussions. It wraps around Harmony Day, the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, celebrated on 21 March.

“Congratulations to the City of Ballarat for this iconic Harmony Festival and congratulations indeed to the Filipino Community for contributing to the diversity of the city,” Consul General Maria Lourdes Salcedo enthused to the audience of Filipino-Australians, representatives of other migrant groups and officials of the City Council. She also rallied community support for the Rizal Park in the City, particularly as this year marks the 160th birthday of Dr.Jose Rizal and the 125th year of his martyrdom.

Of Filipino descent, Frances Salenga is Ballarat’s Intercultural Services Coordinator who said that promoting social inclusion and wellbeing among Ballarat’s migrant communities are key features of the city’s Intercultural City Strategic Plan 2018-2021 “Ballarat is the first accredited Intercultural City in Australia,” she said. “We have significant programs that we have delivered that are marked as best practice of which we are very proud.”

The city also boasts of the Multicultural Ambassador Program, which aims to enhance community awareness and social acceptance, foster leadership in the multicultural and indigenous communities and highlight the positive contributions of migrants and indigenous Australians to Ballarat. END

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