Speech by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Unmasked African Festival

Location: Victoria Square, Adelaide


Good afternoon everyone.

I would like to begin by giving my acknowledgment of Country.

Can I also acknowledge …

  • Mr Hieu Van Lee AO, Governor of South Australia
  • Mr Martin Haese, Lord Mayor of Adelaide
  • My state parliamentary colleagues Ms Zoe Bettison and Ms Jing Lee
  • Mr Mabok Deng Mabok Marial, Chairperson of the African Communities Council of South Australia
  • distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services, it’s my great pleasure to be with you today.

With my special responsibility for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, I am proud of the success of multicultural Australia, where events such as this are regularly celebrated.

All of our communities can come together and celebrate our respective cultures while also taking part in Australian society.

Our African communities are certainly no exception. The Unmasked African Festival uncovers and showcases the African cultures that are present in Australia and contributing to our society.

The festival has been unmasking these cultures since 2002, involving more than 30 different ethnic African communities.

The Unmasked African Festival is renowned for its colour, movement and sounds.

It is unmistakeably African with the drumming, dancing, music, story-telling, arts, crafts, fashion and food — giving everyone a taste of the best of Africa.

It is a wonderful example of what is now commonplace in Australia: our communities celebrating their culture in a diverse, cohesive and prosperous society.

Today, 45% of us were either born overseas or have at least one parent who was. This makes us one of the most culturally diverse, yet socially cohesive nations on Earth.

We are connected to about 300 ancestries and speak almost as many languages, including indigenous languages.

But this enviable cohesion does not happen by chance. It comes from our adherence to those common values of respect and understanding and our uniquely Australian multicultural society.

African communities

Australia has greatly benefited from the commitment and contribution by members of our African communities, many of which are new and emerging.

Socially, culturally and economically you bring so much to our nation to enrich us and I thank you.

And no doubt there is much more to come.

According to the 2011 Census, there were about 17,000 people living in South Australia who were born in African countries.

In 2014-15, 144 people from the African continent settled in this state under the refugee and humanitarian programme.

They came from countries including the Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Liberia and Eritrea.

Many people from these and other African countries came here after the most harrowing and tragic of circumstances.

It is important they are settled as effectively as possible to feel safe and secure so they can lead productive and fulfilling lives.

Australian Government approach

The Australian Government is maintaining and building a cohesive and harmonious multicultural Australia.

Over the next four years, the Government, through the Department of Social Services, will spend about $660 million on multicultural affairs and settlement services, assisting migrants and humanitarian entrants to settle and building community cohesion.

We have an extensive range of mainstream and targeted programmes to support children and families and their participation in community life.

Our role is to work with culturally and linguistically diverse communities to strengthen civil society through well-settled migrants and strong and cohesive communities.


I would like to congratulate you on this festival.

As the daughter of migrants myself, I understand the importance of celebrating cultural heritage and recognise the joy of sharing it with other people and helping their understanding to grow.

I commend the work of the African Communities Council of South Australia (ACCSA) and all other groups involved in organising this wonderful celebration of many African Australian cultures. I hope all those attending enjoy the colour and the excitement of this event.

I wish you all the very best for the rest of the afternoon.

Thank you.