Nestled on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in the heart of Wiradjuri Country in Southern NSW, Wagga Wagga is a regional city, centrally located between Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra. Wagga Wagga is a dynamic and cosmopolitan city with strong community links to the surrounding farmlands and villages of Collingullie, Currawarna, Galore, Humula, Ladysmith, Mangoplah, Oura, Tarcutta, and Uranquinty.
WWLGA occupies 4,825 sq km and is home to approximately 65, 770 residents (ABS, 2020), of which 90% reside in the urban area with surrounding villages and farmland contributing to the variety and diversity of lifestyle options within the community.
Wagga Wagga, the largest inland city in regional NSW, is known for its quality industrial, commercial, education, and defence facilities, sports, and arts communities as well as a diverse calendar of events, rich cultural heritage, and a wealth of fantastic attractions.
Major features contributing to the character and community of WWLGA include the Murrumbidgee River, Charles Sturt University, TAFE NSW Riverina Institute, Kapooka Army Recruit Training Base, RAAF Base Wagga (Forest Hill), Wagga Wagga central business district (CBD), Wagga Wagga Art Gallery and home to the National Art Glass Collection, Museum of the Riverina, Civic Theatre and Performance Spaces, Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens, Oasis Aquatic Centre, Lake Albert, Livingstone National Park, Willans Hill Reserve and a wide range of boutique wineries.
5,850 people who were living in Wagga Wagga City in 2016 were born overseas, and 32% arrived in Australia within 5 years prior to 2016. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of people who spoke a language other than English at home increased by 1,368 or 50.0%, and the number of people who spoke English only decreased by 93 or 0.2%.
The largest changes in the spoken languages of the population in Wagga Wagga City between 2011 and 2016 were for those speaking:
- Malayalam (+308 persons)
- Filipino/Tagalog (+233 persons)
- Burmese (+62 persons)
- Hazaraghi (+54 persons)
The city of Wagga Wagga prides itself on welcoming and embracing members of the new and emerging communities settling in our fine city and supports them in making fresh beginnings. The City joined Refugee Welcome Zones on 23 June 2012; the declaration was signed by the Mayor at the local Refugee Week celebrations. Through becoming a Refugee Welcome Zone the city has further strengthened its commitment to continue Wagga Wagga’s proud tradition of welcoming and supporting humanitarian settlers and asylum seekers and promoting an acceptance of, and respect for, cultural diversity, community harmony, and inclusion.
Wagga Wagga City Council is committed to working in a collaborative approach with local service providers to assist and support our new settlers upon their arrival and in their future progress of settling within our community.
SUMMARY OF REFUGEE WELCOME ZONE INITIATIVES UNDERTAKEN AND/OR SUPPORT BY WAGGA WAGGA CITY COUNCIL
From the period of 2015 to 2022 Wagga Wagga City Council has contributed approximately $97,000 in the form of grants, events, and other social support offerings for local refugee initiatives, all designed to support the settlement of refugees to the Wagga Wagga Community. Some examples of these are below:
Wagga Wagga City Council Community Annual Grants Program
- EID Together (2021)
- Wai’miya De’kekah (To Share through Music) (2021)
- Rvwang Community’s Mvnor Pillar Project within the Community Programs and Projects Category (2020).
- Kachin Community’s Musical Instrument Support project within the Community Programs and Projects Category (2020).
- MCWW’s Equipping Community Cooks to Connect project within the Neighbourhood and Rural Villages Category (2020).
- Rvwang Community’s Mvnor Festival project within the Events Category (2020)
- Tibetan Community Losar Celebrations within the Neighbourhood and Rural Villages Category (2020).
- Tibetan community Events Marking International Human Rights Day project within the Community Programs and Projects Category (2020)
- MCWW’s Harmony in Action project within the Events Category (2020)
- Dinka Community – Jieng Language Learning Hub project within the Community Programs and Projects Category (2020)
- We Grow as we Get to Know (2019); and
- Connectively through Physical Activity (2019)
- Sporting Chance (2017 – 2018)
- Common Threads (2017 – 2018)
- Yazidi Black Day (2017)
The Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga supported a number of our cultural communities in their application to Wagga Wagga City Councils Annual Grants program.
The Kachin Community of Wagga were successful in the application for funding within the Wagga Wagga City Council Annual Grants Program to support the purchase traditional musical instruments that are not currently accessible to any of the Burmese cultural groups locally. The addition of these instruments adds to the pool of instruments that are available to local communities at times of cultural significance and in participating in events within the wider community such as Fusion Multicultural Festival, Refugee Week and Harmony Day these events offer a platform to build community harmony, foster relationships and unity.
The Jieng Language Learning Hub were successful in an application of funding within the Wagga Wagga City Council Annual Grants Program to purchase digital technology equipment to continue to provide opportunities to learn and practice Dinka language and cultural practices remotely. Through the project the Jieng Language Learning Hub have also been supported to purchase a number of in language resources, extending the scope of learning opportunities the group was able to deliver previously.
The Rvwang Community of Wagga successfully received funding within the Wagga Wagga City Council Annual Grants Program to host the inaugural Mvnor festival. Traditionally the Rvwang Community host this celebration when settling in a new and safe environment, to show appreciation to the community who live there. With members of the Rvwang Community initially settling as refugees in Wagga Wagga 10 years ago the hosting of the Mvnor festival will provide an opportunity to continue to build strong connections with the wider community of Wagga Wagga and pay their respect to the traditional custodians of the land while also maintaining traditional customs and traditions to pass on to the next generations within the community. Initially planned to be hosted in 2020 the festival has been postponed until 2022 due to restrictions relating to COVID-19.
The Tibetan Community of Wagga successfully received funding through the Wagga Wagga City Council Annual Grants Program to host their 2021 Losar Celebrations. The event was a huge success, reaching capacity and featured Grammy nominated musician Tenzin Choegyal. As the most recent settlement group in Wagga the local Tibetan community used the event as a platform to strengthen their connections to a wider network of community organisations, groups and individuals. Promoting cross cultural understanding through the sharing of music, dance and traditional food.
The Tibetan Community of Wagga Wagga were also successful in receiving funding through the Wagga Wagga City Council Annual Grants Program to host a number of events in recognition of International Day of Human rights. These events were planned as a platform to both raise awareness of continuing struggles for human rights across the world, while showing solidarity with other ethnic communities who reside locally in Wagga Wagga. The Tibetan community of Wagga Wagga hosted an event on the evening of the 10th of December (International Human Rights Day). The event featured a range of short films, speeches and presentations from community members and Amnesty International. A second family day event that was planned was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID -19 restrictions in place at the time, though is planned to be held in December 2021.
Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga were successful in receiving funding through the Wagga Wagga City Council Annual Grants Program for the Equipping Community Cooks to Connect project. This project provided support in purchasing a variety of culturally appropriate cooking equipment to support a diverse range of community cultural groups in their ability to host and cater for community celebrations and gatherings at times of cultural significance. These resources provided a great asset in assisting communities to come together to build social cohesion and community harmony and provided a platform to connect, learn and share.
We Grow as we Get to Know (2019)
The WE Grow as We Get to Know project aimed to support diverse communities celebrate times of cultural significance while also acting as a platform to celebrate cultural diversity, foster relationships and promote unity within our region. The project supported cultural community groups celebrate times of cultural significance such as Afghan New Years and the local Buddhist community’s Vesak celebration. The project was successful in achieving this by supporting the use and engagement of public spaces for a variety of community activities, events and celebrations.
This was particularly shown on two occasions which were held in response to events that happened overseas, though had impacts for community here locally, two candlelight vigils which were held in response to both the Christchurch terrorist attack and the Sri Lankan terrorist bombing attack.
The purchase of equipment and resources that can be accessed by diverse community groups will see the continued engagement of these spaces in the future and the engagement at other mainstream events and activities (including the purchase of a BBQ specifically designated for Halal products). Examples of such events in which community groups were able to participate by accessing these resources include Wagga City Councils Spring Jam, the Day of Diversity fundraiser and Fusion Multicultural Street Festival.
Connectively through Physical Activity (2019)
Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga ran regular monthly sports days (involving activities, games and try-days to provide ways of motivating community members to stay healthy, connected and encourage community harmony with a focus on health and wellbeing.
This project also aimed to foster pathways to increase multicultural participation in mainstream club sports. Each event and activity held has seen representation from various cultural communities residing in Wagga Wagga and all activities have been well attended with between 80 to 200 people participating in each community activity
Sporting Chance- 2017 – 2018
Facilitation of access to sporting activities and various other events has resulted in between 80 and 200 people participating in each community activity. Representation includes members from the Burmese, Afghan, Chinese, Nepali, Pakistan, India, Sri Lankan, African and the Yazidi community. Activities have allowed individuals and communities to come together in a safe and secure environment to make new friends, have fun and at times learn new skills. The outcome of this project has seen significant benefits for our newest community members, the Yazidi community, as the project has created opportunities for individuals and their families to participate in no cost activities providing an opportunity and a sense of belonging in their new home. As a side benefit, these activities have provided a direct link to expand their local social network with participants now joining local sporting teams. The project facilitated six sport days held on Saturday, and a gala Harmony in Action family sports day. Project activities included volleyball, cricket, soccer, basketball and kite flying.
Common Threads 2017 – 2018
2017 saw the establishment of the Common Threads project which is a partnership between Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga, Wellways, Wagga Women’s Health Centre and STARTTS. Common Threads supports women from diverse cultural backgrounds develop to share and extend skills within various textile fields by offering weekly group sessions. Starting in October 2017, the partner organisations were impressed by the response to the program with an average of 20 participants attending each week (40 participants took part in the program across the first two months). With a reduction in availability of existing volunteers in 2018, the project was restructured to allow new volunteer facilitators develop confidence in delivering the program, with a focus on more individualised mentoring for participants. The group has become self-sustaining, and has developed confidence to pursue opportunities to exhibit and participate in events within the broader community. As an example, the group have booked an opportunity to showcase their work in Eastern Riverina Arts window gallery later this year, and are exploring other opportunities to showcase their product at public events include Fusion Multicultural Festival, the Wagga Show, and hosting market stalls.
Yazidi Black Day – 3rd August 2017
The Yazidi community came together on the 3rd of August to remember family and friends killed by ISIS. This day is known as Black Day. In the summer of 2014, ISIS invaded the town of Sinjar in Northern Iraq where members of the Yazidi minority ethnic group live. The genocide has led to the expulsion, flight and effective exile of the Yazidis from their ancestral lands in Northern Iraq. The genocide led to the abduction of Yazidi women and massacres that killed thousands of Yazidi civilians during what has been called a “forced conversion campaign being carried out in Northern Iraq by ISIL, starting in 2014.
Yazidi New Year On 15th December, the Yazidi community, alongside the broader community of Wagga Wagga, came to celebrate the Yazidi New Year Sere Sal, meaning “Head of the Year”. Part of the New Year celebration includes coloring of eggs to collectively represent Tawsi Melek’s rainbow colours.
These two events have led to a greater understanding of the Yazidi communities’ traditions and history as the events provided an opportunity for the Yazidi community to share their stories with members from the broader community as also via the media coverage at the events. By sharing stories and traditions it creates greater awareness and understanding which leads to social cohesion and a harmonies community.
FUSION Multicultural Street Festival (2011 to present)
Wagga Wagga City Council’s FUSION Multicultural Street Festival has been built on the simple philosophy that food and the creative and performing arts are a powerful means of engaging and uniting the whole community. Since its inception in 2011, this annual celebration of cultural diversity, community harmony and the arts has continued to grow in terms of size and scope reflecting the city’s diverse and vibrant communities. FUSION is about celebrating the music, dance, food and creative arts that mix-together to make our community strong, unique and liveable. The festival is an entry point of a cultural experience for individuals, families and groups who want to experience cultural and religious diversity but have not had the opportunity to do so previously. It engages and connects with new arrivals to our city, local and regional residents of all ages and walks-of-life – it increases community connectedness and social cohesion.
FRESH (2018 to present)
The FRESH program creatively combines Seniors Festival and Youth Week celebrations in a month-long intergenerational program of fun, engaging and diverse talks, workshops and events. The program is designed to bring millennial, Gen Y, Gen X, baby boomer and silent generation audiences together to exchange ideas, garner fresh insights and gain new perspectives. The full FRESH and RE-FRESH program corresponds with existing Seniors Week dates, typically being March through to April and Youth Week dates, being during the month of April. The FRESH program is curated to celebrate and educate the community on a range of different cultures and their cultural practices.
Refugee week and Harmony Week Activities (held annually)
Each year, Wagga Wagga City Council work to support the leadership and undertaking of events and programming by the Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga.
Made to Share (2021 to present)
The Made to Share project tapped into the traditions and sustainable food practices of our region’s rich cultural diversity. Made to Share examines relationships between memory, history, culture, religion and food. It reveals what, how and why everyday people are cooking in our local neighbourhoods.
Made to Share showcases a series of easy yet inspiring family recipes. These recipes have been handed down through generations to the people who carry them in their hearts and will now share them with us. They represent the very best of regional food from around the world, made right here in our community. https://wagga.nsw.gov.au/community/annual-events/fusion/made-to-share
Access to community facilities
The WWCC Council provides 20 free venue hirers each year to the Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga to host events and activities of cultural significances. In 2020, Council offered an additional 4 free venue hirers to individual community groups, including but not limited to the following cultural groups:
Language and Communication
Tech Savvy Seniors is offered as a program through Wagga Wagga City Council Library. The Tech Savvy program is a partnership between the NSW Government and Telstra, providing free or low cost technology training to seniors through NSW public libraries and community colleges.
The program aims to help seniors with little or no digital experience develop skills and confidence in using technology for socialising, accessing services or conducting personal business. Training is fun and hands-on, and includes basic introductory courses on using computers, tablets, smart phones, the internet, email and social media. Training is offered free of charge in English and other languages.
Wagga Wagga City Council has developed river safety messages in language to ensure that water safety messages are inclusive and accessible for growing cultural groups arriving to the city.
Language Café is a program delivered through the Wagga Wagga City Library to improve spoken English of newcomers to Australia. 90-minute drop-in sessions are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturday between 11 am to 12:30 pm during the school term at Wagga Wagga City Library.
Bindi Boses (2020)
Established in April 2019, Bindi Bosses is a decolonising Urban South Asian Fusion performing arts group. They provide a platform for artists to connect and showcase stories of mixed cultural upbringing/heritage through fusion dance with a hip hop and pop edge. They draw on their traditions and fuse them with influences that have shaped them: Classical Indian Dance, South Asian Cinema, Folk Dance and Street Dance from around the world. They promote cultural diversity and exchange, female empowerment, intersectionality and social inclusion. We stand in solidarity with Australia’s First Nations.
Bindi Bosses was secured as part of the program delivered in Wagga Wagga City Council’s FRESH event. The Bindi Boses workshop held in 2020 was a 2hr offering of female empowerment through movement in a workshop that provides a safe space to experience the freedom of Female Style Dancehall (Jamaica), the joy of Samba (Brazil) and the self-empowerment of Bindi Bosses Urban South Asian Fusion (India). Attendees learnt grooves and moves plus Bindi Bosses signature choreography to Lilly Singh’s Bollywood/Hip Hop mashup from their debut video that went viral in 2019 and promotes empowerment, self-love and body positivity.
The workshop was for all female and female identifying people aged 15 years and over. Bindi Bosses workshops provide safe, inclusive, judgement-free spaces to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and to explore movement with emphasis on self-empowerment, body positivity and cross-cultural exchange.
WWCC Youth Forums
Wagga Wagga City Council is committed to listening to the youth of Wagga. We hold annual youth forums where we find out about important issues for young people in the local area to inform Council decisions, and help inform the development of new events, programs and opportunities in our community. There have been particular sessions held for key cohorts and this has included our multicultural young people, assisted by the Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga.
Community and Interagency Networks
The Wagga Wagga Multicultural Interagency Network (MIN) is facilitated and administered through the Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga. Wagga Wagga City Council is a member and attends these meetings. It is an independent network of services, agencies and organisations which provide support and action for local CALD communities. It works in partnership to identify and address issues of community need. The outcomes for the meetings are:
- Facilitate opportunities for information exchange
- Facilitate opportunities for networking
- Encourage resource sharing and interagency collaboration
- Facilitate opportunities for planning, consultation and partnerships
- Facilitate opportunities for strategy development
- Build capacity and skills of local multicultural services providers
- Advocate for and on behalf the CALD community
- Promote a positive profile and narrative of the CALD community.
CALD Water Safety Network
The CALD Water Safety Network is chaired by Wollongong Council and Wagga Wagga City Council is a member. The group aims to create a collaborative network to encourage effective communication between multicultural services and aquatic service providers. Its goals are to ensure water safety initiatives are responsive to the needs and assets of the regions culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Wagga Wagga City Council regularly curate diverse offerings through their cultural facilities. Some examples of these include but are not limited to:
Silk Inroads (2022) – Wagga Wagga Art Gallery
Silk Inroads is a collaborative community project that explores the visual heritage of the ancient Silk Roads in contemporary needlepoint. More than 70 members of the local community have been working with needlepoint artist Natalie Fisher over recent months to create a body of stitched panels inspired by the beautiful tiles found in four countries along the Silk Roads: Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and India.
Hoda Ashfar: Remain (2020) – Wagga Wagga Art Gallery
Remain weaves a haunting narrative as Hoda Afshar’s lens follows a group of stateless men who remain on Manus Island despite the centre’s closure in 2017. This collaborative work documents a series of intersecting stories told against the verdant backdrop of Manus Island, where each of the men recounts their journey and growing sense of desperation on hopelessness.
The Sounds of Burma (2020) – Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre
The Burmese community in Wagga Wagga has been growing for over 10 years. The Multicultural Council of Wagga Wagga (MCWW) has a strong relationship with this community and partnered with the theatre to bring the concert to the stage for everyone to enjoy. The Rvzi Band (Pronounced Razi) features members from the local Burmese community who presented a lively concert of pop, rock and country songs that every music lover will enjoy.
Sydney Travelling Film Festival (2010 to present)
Wagga Wagga hosts the Travelling Film Festival. The Travelling Film Festival (TFF), Australia’s longest running travelling film festival, showcases Australian and international features, documentaries and short films in regional Australia. TFF currently tours to 18 locations annually, screening in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales.