On the 27th March 2021, Addison Road Community Organisation hosted a Multicultural Childcare Celebration Morning Tea in Gumbramorra Hall at Addison Road Community Centre, on the lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.
Special guests included Vivi Germanos-Koutsounadis, Judy Finlason and Sue Heath from the office of Anthony Albanese, Member for Grayndler and Leader of the Opposition.
The celebration opened with these words of welcome from Mina Bui Jones, programs manager with Addison Road Community Organisation:
I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, pay my respects to Aboriginal Elders past and presents and express gratitude for their care of Country over hundreds of generations that all Australians today inherit from, and urgently need to learn from.
Thank you all for coming here today, some of you perhaps without really understanding what it’s all about! And that’s because this is an unusual event. It’s not often, I think, that any of us take time out and stop to recognise the importance of multicultural children’s services in our communities.
Addison Road Community Organisation is an active member and convenor of the Inner West Multicultural Network, and this network of more than 80 organisations and services in the Inner West recently campaigned for Inner West Council — the inheritor of Marrickville, Leichhardt and Ashfield councils, some of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Australia — to develop a multicultural policy. And they did.
The Inner West Multicultural policy provides funding for local ‘multicultural celebration days’. And Addison Road Community Organisation decided that we would apply for support to celebrate an aspect of multiculturalism that too often gets forgotten in the national conversation — an absolutely essential part of creating respectful, safe and joyful communities — and that is with our children, from the earliest years of their lives, before there is the opportunity for the poisons of intolerance, racism and xenophobia to be taught to them.
The starting point for this event was the childcare centre here at Addison Road, which opened in 1988 as the Addison Road Multicultural Children’s Centre. It was a project of Addison Road Community Centre in response to local need, and with a vision that was significant enough that then-prime minister Bob Hawke came to officially open it.
There was federal-level interest in what was happening here at Addison Road because the community centre was viewed as being something of a test-kitchen for cooking up a new Australia, right from 1976 when Addison Road Community Centre was created in on the grounds of a former army depot, known as the ‘barracks’.
The Addison Road Multicultural Childcare Centre was just one of the ‘dishes’ that came out of that kitchen, and the essential ingredients in this new society were: migrant communities from all over the world; federal funding for multiculturalism, children’s services and the arts; and many, many local heroes: volunteers and professionals from ethnic welfare groups, from neighbourhood associations, from arts cooperatives, playgroups, after-school care and youth drop-in programs.
The mix, or the balance, of the ingredients has changed in the years since 1976 — changes in the countries of origin of new migrants and refugees, changes in the types of industries in the area, in the make-up of families and often in levels of funding for community services and children’s services, as well as gentrification of the local suburbs, with rising housing prices and cost of living.
Today, the Addison Road Early Learning Centre is run by Inner West Council and is one of many in the local government area where it is no longer a surprise or even a special feature for local families from non-English speaking backgrounds to be able to communicate and feel comfortable with the staff who look after their children.
Bicultural support, culturally and linguistically diverse educators and carers working with local families, acknowledgements of Country, cultural respect and cross-cultural literacy are things we might easily take for granted today. This gathering provides a brief moment for us to remember that these ‘normal’ ways of doing things were once considered too hard, unimportant, radical or irrelevant. But we know that the maintenance of languages and cultures is actually a matter of survival, of mental health, of social justice and of human rights.
This morning tea is about paying tribute to the important work that the people — predominantly women — working in children’s services in the Inner West and beyond have done and continue to do to support children and families from diverse cultural backgrounds and really, in their daily lives, to create multicultural communities right from the start. It’s not easy work. It is not always properly acknowledged, socially or financially. And, as we learned last year in the pandemic, it is the epitome of frontline work.
We at Addison Road Community Organisation, with support from Inner West Council, want to acknowledge and thank those of you who work with our communities’ children. Thank you for your professionalism, for your commitment and your contribution to creating a fairer, happier and healthy society.