Poignant celebration of diverse cultures

Jessica CuthbertAlbany Advertiser
Roe MLA Peter Rundle and Katanning Shire President Liz Guidera join the fun at the Katanning Harmony Festival.
Camera IconRoe MLA Peter Rundle and Katanning Shire President Liz Guidera join the fun at the Katanning Harmony Festival. Credit: Jennifer Shepherd

Differences were celebrated and cultures shared in Katanning at the weekend at the 10th Katanning Harmony Festival.

Locals and visitors lined the streets to celebrate who they are and where they come from at the annual festival, which aims to bring the diverse community together.

It came one day after the devastating attacks in Christchurch, a vile act of hatred in which a gunman opened fire inside two mosques.

For many in the Katanning community, the attacks were a reminder of why the festival was so important.

Community volunteer Lesley Balinski, who has been involved in the festival since it began 10 years ago, said while there was sadness, it was a wonderful day.

“This year’s festival went really, really well,” she said. “It was such a lovely day and it’s one of those things that brings all of us together. I’ve always been a big advocate for inclusion.”

As someone who emigrated from England at a young age, Ms Balinski said she remembered her early years in Australia being tough. “We were given a hard time and I always thought that was pretty rough,” she said.

“My whole life I have gone out of my way to include everyone, as I knew how difficult it could be.

“Through my childhood, I knew how difficult it was to come to a new country and be accepted, this is what the festival is all about, accepting and welcoming everyone.”

She said the festival was a fantastic event which focused on welcoming everyone from all cultural backgrounds, which was a particularly important sentiment in light of the Christchurch attacks.

“That was an appalling act and one that has no place in our world,” she said. “That’s why having this festival is so important, to have that happen in what was supposed to be a safe place would have hit them to their core as it did us.”

“The fact that we were all together at the festival the next day — together in harmony — shows the support, the love.”

Ms Balinski said one of Katanning’s refugees, long-term resident John Nazary, spoke from his heart at the festival.

“He always speaks at the festival — thanks the community for having a safe place,” she said. “He was devastated ... He also called for a minute silence at the festival.”

The festival was celebrated by a big crowd who enjoyed international food, culture and children’s activities. The street parade was a highlight. Ms Balinski said it was wonderful to see so many people dressed in traditional garments.

“There was a sadness when talking about attacks but overall, there was happiness and joy,” she said.

“We were all together bringing the cultures together and sharing our stories.”

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