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Subject: Cultural Studies »

George Lekakis on community support

George Lekakis.

Victorian Multicultural Commission chair George Lekakis describes community support for their directions



Date Added:

03 March 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

8.3 MB






Supporting communities is fundamental to any debate about multiculturalism. It’s not something that you just pass by at the celebration, say a few words and piss off. You’ve actually got to support people. You can talk about volunteer programs but volunteerism in ethnic communities has been going on since the day they came. Their whole community structures – every fundraising effort, all the things that they’ve done, even their own little housing programs, their support for their aged. All this, the acquisition of buildings and space has been done on top of working nine to five and volunteering to run their schools, to run their – build their churches and so forth.


I felt that very strongly and I also felt that the government never really responded to them directly, to that huge proliferation of communities and their organisation. So we went about building our budget, to respond to community needs, we found that a lot of heritage – for example the local history and grants program, when I first came in, out of the 69 grants allocations that were made, only one went to an ethnic heritage project. So we said, “Well we need a grants program that strengthens our community, responds to heritage and deals with matters of community organisations and self-sufficiency and self-help.”


So we went about designing a grants program that would assist in that. And the next issue was, festivals and events. God, Victoria’s known for lots of festivals and lots of events. And I reckon if there were lots of festivals and events in Cronulla, that people got to know each other before the – even if they were based around the beach, and involved people of all backgrounds, maybe it wouldn’t have happened.


That’s why you see a lot of Asian festivals, Ramadan, end of Ramadan festivals, you see Greek, you see Chinese New Year festivals, in Bull Street in Bendigo, you see them in Melbourne you see them all over the place, we directly support those, we didn’t have enough funds to give them and say, “Okay here’s the money to run it.” But we felt that with our seeding grants that they had then, the potential to attract other sponsors and do a whole lot of things. And therefore able to build up the momentum – hence you have 40,000 people at the Tet Festival, at Sandown Park, you have larger numbers of the new year’s Chinese Festival, you have Ramadan festivals, end of Ramadan – now we have Ramadan dinners to create an atmosphere of goodwill – we – we supported last year 900 events and festivals in Victoria, as a commission, let alone other funding bodies.


So we needed to support them and then we needed to bring in a legislation that would compel government agencies to respond more positively.


End transcript