On 16 and 17 June in Melbourne, over 900 people gathered for the FECCA 2022 Conference: Advancing Multicultural Australia.
The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils (FECCA) is the peak, national body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. FECCA’s role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of its constituency to government, business and the broader community.
Attendees to FECCA 2022 came from all over Australia and represented a diverse range of cultures, ages, professions and experiences. This was a conference that truly reflected the vibrant multicultural nation we live in.
Keynote speakers included Professor Megan Davis, Constitutional Law and Indigenous Rights expert; Juliana Nkrumah AM, Founder and President of African Women Australia; Donnella Mills, Chair of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health organisation; Vivienne Nguyen AM, Chair – Victorian Multicultural Commission; and Mary Patestos, Chair – FECCA.
Over two days, a broad range of issues were discussed from belonging to aged care, leadership to racism, representation to asylum seeker advocacy. It was acknowledged that the issues and opportunities facing our communities are not niche and are central to Australia’s future. Working together to ensure all people are included equally at every level of society is a question at the heart of Australian identity.
Twenty eight panel discussions were held and delegates heard from distinguished speakers that included the Governor General of Australia, His Excellency David Hurley AC, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles MP, Shadow Minister for immigration and citizenship Dan Tehan MP, leader of the Australian Greens Mr Adam Bandt MP, Minister for Early Childhood Education, Minister for Youth Dr Ann Aly and former Socceroo and now a human rights activist Craig Foster.
The keynote address by professor Megan Davis Co chair on the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ was clearly the highlight of the event.
Mary Patetsos, Chair of FECCA told NRI Affairs, “This conference is an important milestone in Australia’s history because because it is the first time ethnic communities have been able to meet after the global pandemic, to come together for Australia’s multicultural future. The critical thing about that is that there is a culture, language and spiritualities that is unique to these communities and in the way in which we bring that to Australia and contribute to Australia moving forward. It is also about what we need to do to ensure that no one is left behind and have access to all the things like education, employment and all the things that are critical for our progress.”
FECCA is planning draft a communique that they will send to the prime minister on the delegates’ behalf, Ms Patestos said, adding that the conference also provided an opportunity for multiple ethnic communities from all over Australia to spend some time together, learn from each other and to enjoy each other’s company.
Lawyer Molina Asthana, who made a presentation on behalf of Asian Australian Alliance on ‘COVID related racism and its impact on social cohesion’ on the panel on racism says the conference plays an important role in bringing ethnic communities from around Australia and some key decision makers together in a room. She said she would like to see greater participation from the mainstream in Australia, in the conference.
Tharini Apolline Rouwette, who chaired the session ‘Walking the Walk: Multicultural Leaders as First nations Allies’ and also spoke at another session on ‘Advancing Multicultural Representation in Australian Politics’ told NRI Affairs that she would like to see one or more separate sessions on politics.
About discussions on racism, Ms Rouwette said, “Lot of people talk about racism as a ‘white vs coloured’ thing. I think what was not talked about, and I hope to see that happen next year, was inter-cultural racism. As an example, within the Indian community there is discrimination within the community – like religious discrimination and caste discrimination. I am not an Indian-born Indian, but I was shocked myself to find that the caste system has taken a hold in Australia. For me to realise that caste still plays a part within the Indian community in Australia was quite a shocking revelation and its something that I am deeply concerned about.”
Together the participants agreed:
- A truly inclusive and equitable society must start with recognition and justice for First Nations peoples. We are proud to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart and is
committed to building support for its calls across multicultural communities.
- Reform of Australia’s federal multicultural framework is urgently needed to build a strong future where everyone can belong and thrive equally. We are calling for multicultural
organisations and communities to lead this process.
- Multicultural communities have the answers, give us a seat at the table. Working in partnership with us to create genuinely inclusive policies and practices, is essential at every
- Robust communication and engagement with all people in Australia, regardless of their cultural or linguistic identity must be a priority for everyone.
- The current migration system is causing unnecessary harm and vulnerability across our communities. It needs urgent reform at all levels to ensure a system that is transparent, fair and humane for all who want to call Australia home.
- We need to recognise the expertise and leadership that refugees, asylum seekers and migrants bring to our country. Bilingual and bicultural workers are the backbone of the
caring sector: health, ageing and social care.
- Everyone in Australia deserves and has a right to belong equally. It is only by ensuring that all people feel like they belong, that the full benefits of diversity and multiculturalism can be enjoyed by all Australians.