Shepparton and Social Cohesion

Free ice Cream at St Georges Road Community Fun night courtesy Mr SheppySocial cohesion has many elements. We look to events occurring in Shepparton during the time of the Christchurch terror attack, in order that social justice, belonging, participation, acceptance and worth – all elements of social cohesion – are illustrated in the activities offered by the community at that time.


On the evening of the Christchurch mosque shootings – and subsequent days – Shepparton and its residents were engaged in many activities founded on community strengthening and community building. Herein, we give one account of these activities.

Preamble:

The Christchurch mosque shootings were two consecutive terrorist attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019. The attacks began at the Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton at 1:40 pm and continued at the Linwood Islamic Centre at about 1:55 pm.[8][9][10][11] The gunman live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live.

The attacks killed 51 people. There were 50 injured, as of 17 March, one of whom later died. A 28-year-old Australian man, described in media reports as a white supremacist and part of the alt-right, was arrested and charged with murder. The attacks have been linked to an increase in white supremacism and alt-right extremism globally observed since the mid-2010s. Politicians and world leaders condemned the attacks, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”. The government established a royal commission of inquiry into its security agencies in the wake of the attacks, which are the deadliest mass shootings in modern New Zealand history.
St Georges Road Community Fun Night:
St Georges Road Community Fun Night flyer
On that fateful day of 15 March, the St Georges Road Community Area conducted a Community Fun Night with the “Australian Multicultural Games” at Victory Park. There was a jumping castle for children, a soccer match for kids, free ice-cream courtesy of Mr Sheppy, a free evening meal courtesy of Azem Elmaz and People Supporting People, a courtesy soft drink, free face painting for children, and henna hand painting for ladies.

A Twist in the Tale.
A Twist in the Tale
The next morning – Saturday 16 March – as part of the Shepparton Festival, there was A Twist in the Tale. Remember a time before social media or TV? When you sat around a fire, in a family room listening to a story?
Come, listen to stories brought to you by the diverse communities of the Goulburn Valley, from the First Australians all the way to the newest Australians. Initially in their own Mother Tongue then in English. There will be time after that to explore the story, the language, the provenance; in a kind, considerate and respectful manner.

This is the first time such an event will be held in a rural city in Australia, away from the big centres like Melbourne or Darwin, in the intimate venue of the Black Box Theatre belonging to Shepparton Theatre Arts Group. Brought to you by the Shepparton Festival.

Converge on the Goulburn
Converge on the Goulburn
That afternoon, as part of the Shepparton Festival (15-31 March) there was the Converge on the Goulburn event – a launch event for the Shepparton Festival. A true world music festival, Converge on the Goulburn brings together food, culture and performance from Shepparton’s Aboriginal and multicultural communities as well as international artists. Traditional and contemporary music and performance, check out the vibrant marketplace with authentic craft, culture and visual arts.

Performers included:
Shepparton Albanian Society
Know Your Roots
Collin Bogaars FUN ARTS Creative Entertainment
SHEMA Shepparton
Heard Instinct Collective
Oz Team
Lamine Sonko and the African Intelligence

Participate in interactive cultural workshops and activities and relax in the outdoor lounge featuring authentic foods cooked by local communities. The opening celebration of the Shepparton Festival and the opening event of Cultural Diversity week will be a colourful, high energy, cultural community festival at Victoria Park Lake. This free family event is alcohol free and an inclusive cultural celebration of music, art and diversity. Come along and enjoy the cacophony of sound, colour, movement and tastes. Converge on the Goulburn is part of Shepparton Festival. That was the Saturday after Christchurch.

Cultural Diversity Week

The Monday, 18 March, was the launch of Cultural Diversity Week at Kidstown. There were cultural dances, presentations, food and drink, activities for children, food from different cultures and free train rides.

Cultural Diversity Week had a full program. There was “Where to next” a business start-up and employment services for women from culturally diverse backgrounds, a multicultural bus tour of places of cultural significance – taking in the Turkish mosque, the Sikh temple, the Albanian Mosque and the Iraqi Mosque. On Thursday 21 March there was a multifaith prayer service at the Uniting Church, with Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs participating. On Friday 22nd of March, after Prayers at the Albanian mosque, there were Prayers for Christchurch, another multifaith prayer event. On the Sunday following, the Afghan Mosque and community centre held prayers for Christchurch.

The following week, the Greater Shepparton Youth of Colour & Culture held a meeting:

In the light of the Christchurch Massacre, a local initiative – Community Conversations – driven by the young people of Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley will take place at Queens Gardens tomorrow evening – March 26th, from 6:30 pm. This event has the sponsorship of Hijack’d, Know Your Roots, Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District, Latrobe University and the City of Greater Shepparton. The meeting addressed unpacking the impact of terrorism on the community.

Ongoing Community Building
Iraqi Culture Corner, Shepparton
On the first Saturday of each month, one or another community group holds an event called Culture Corner in Maude Street Mall
– the first Culture Corner was conducted by the Malaysian Association;
– the second Culture Corner was conducted by the Iraqi Community

Picnic 4 Peace is an annual observance at Victoria Park Lake and commenced 4 years ago. This is the community’s observance of UN World Day of Peace. It also has monthly or bimonthly picnics at local waterfalls, parks, trip to the Snow, many locations within one hour’s drive of Shepparton. This has solid community support and participation.

There was also a recent observance for the Sri Lanka Easter bombings. Two weeks on from the Sri Lanka bombing, more than 100 people gathered at the St Brendan’s parish to mourn the lives and humanity lost after a number of suicide bombings took place, targeting churches and hotels Easter Sunday.

 

St Georges Road Community Fun Night
St Georges Road Community Fun Night

There were many events in Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley at this time. Social cohesion – activities that build and strengthen community were on offer. People who have settled Shepparton and surrounds could take up participation in these activities, build their personal self-worth and belonging and thus, experience equity and social justice in the community at large.

Converge on the Goulburn Program
Program for Launch of Converge on the Goulburn, Shepparton – participation as a pillar of social cohesion