Multicultural festival postponed, again

Some multicultural community members have expressed disappointment after the Gippsland Multicultural Festival was postponed for a second time.

Organised by the Gippsland Ethnic Communities Council, the two-day annual event is usually held in March, but was rescheduled for May, and now September.

The event begins with the Gippsland Schools Festival scheduled on a Friday and ends on a Sunday with another celebration involving local ethnic communities.

Multicultural groups confirmed to The Express they were not informed of the rescheduling by GECC chair Dr Graham Dettrick.

Slavic Women of Gippsland president Anastasia Ivanova said her group was disappointed the festival, a showcase of the region’s cultural diversity, was moved to September after being postponed to May.

“People were quite upset because they’ve done their craftwork,” Ms Ivanova said.

She said the group had prepared traditional Russian embroidery that would be displayed at the festival.

Ms Ivanova said the group might reconsider joining the festival in September and had returned funding received from the Victorian Multicultural Commission for their participation in the annual festival.

Filipino Seniors of Gippsland secretary Thelma Davies said moving the festival to September may further dampen the community’s interest in the event, which has been running for seven years.

Mrs Davies said her group began preparing for their cultural presentation before March and had contacted Dr Dettrick to confirm the festival’s schedule, but they never received a reply. It was not until a chance meeting with Dr Dettrick when the group was told the festival would be held in May.

In a previous interview with The Express, Dr Dettrick said the festival had been pushed back to May because the performers were “not ready”.

However, Gippsland Indonesian Australian Association president Angela Scholten said Dr Dettrick phoned her before March saying the GECC decided to move the festival’s schedule to May because of a “lack of funding”.

“I’m okay about it if there’s no funding to do it on time,” Ms Scholten said, adding she was not aware the festival had been moved again to September.

“It seems to me (the festival will) die off.”

Dr Dettrick said the issue was more complex than funding problems adding that the GIAA was not part of the planning discussion for the March festival.

He told The Express some ethnic communities were not told about the festival’s postponement, but “advised as many as we can”.

“It’s possible that we missed out informing some people,” Dr Dettrick said.

He confirmed the festival would be held on 27 September.

Dr Dettrick said the GECC moved the festival to May because he did not have enough people power to set it up, but that this decision turned out to be impractical “because of potential weather problems”.

Dr Dettrick said the council had decided to split the schools festival, which did go ahead in March, and the multicultural festival because hosting them on the same weekend was a large burden on volunteers and participants.

“I believe that anyone, with a little thought, will be able to see the effectiveness of the change of plan,” he said.