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A multicultural Australia Day parade

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Amidst chants of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!, Bole So Nihal and Laa ilaaha illalaah, Mohamed ar-Rasool Allah the Australia Day parade brought together people from all walks of life to celebrate their country, culture and national identity.


Cloudy and wet weather did not dampen the spirits of those who participated in the Australia Day parade in Melbourne City this year. Hundreds of proud Australians sported traditional costumes and waved the Australian flag along with the placards of their origins as they marched down Swanston Street. Premier Daniel Andrews and Governor Alex Chernov took part in the official flag raising ceremony at Melbourne’s Town Hall before the annual parade.

In a wave of splendid colours, the various multicultural groups made their way down Swanston Street, past Princess Bridge and into King’s Domain, cheered on by thousands of spectators. Sporting groups, dance schools, choirs, cultural groups and ethnic community groups participated in the parade including special interest groups like The Laughter Club, Dr Who Club and The Rebels (from Star Wars). In recognition of the Anzac centenary, descendants of World War One diggers joined the parade. While members of the SES, Prospectors and Miners group and Muslims for Peace also made their presence felt amidst the sounds of drums, bagpipes and loud music.

The Indian community was represented by the Sikh Community, Punjabi Association of Australia, various members of the Federation of Indian Association of Victoria (FIAV), Jet Australia Foundation and Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan Inc. Little children in traditional Indian outfits marched ahead of the eclectic group visible in their celebration of Australian diversity. This year the dhol, Bollywood dancers and Bhangra dancers were conspicuous in their absence.

The parade was followed by Invasion Day protestors led by Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance and First Nations liberation. Chanting slogans, burning gum leaves, playing the didgeridoo and waving the Aboriginal flag, the vocal group protested against the Australia Day celebrations. According to the protestors Australia Day is a day of mourning not celebration. The participants marched for Aboriginal rights displaying slogans like No Pride In Genocide, Grand Theft Australia and Camp Sovereignty. 

According to Sheena and Bobby Saigal, “We have lived in Melbourne for many years and this is the first time that we have been able to attend the celebration in the city, we really enjoyed the family friendly atmosphere. There was so much to see and there were plenty of activities for kids.” The couple is considering making this an annual event while their kids are growing up.

“It was an amazing day, my children enjoyed the parade and I appreciated the celebration of diversity,” said Arvinder Singh. “Even the protest was thought provoking, you get to see different perspectives and it makes you curious to understand the historical significance of Australia Day,” he said.
Towards the end of the parade, participants assembled at King’s Domain and Birrarung Marr to rest and mingle with each other. This presented an excellent photo opportunity for spectators who whisked out smart phones for innumerable selfies. Social media was inundated with posts from those who clamoured to pose with likes of Jar Jar Binks and Elsa from Frozen. Enjoying the intermittent sunshine, the crowd continued to mill around to take part in other activities of the day.
 
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Preeti Jabbal
Preeti Jabbal
Preeti is the Melbourne Coordinator of Indian Link.

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