The Words of the Bellavance Family

Africa Day Commemorated in Melbourne

John Bellavance
May 26, 2012
UPF -- Australia

Melbourne, Australia -- UPF-Victoria initiated an exciting project on May 26, "Africa Day Melbourne 2012" Celebrating African Culture and Successful African Australians. The event was held to coincide with the annual Africa Day celebrations held around the world, marking the 59th anniversary of the founding of the African Union. The North Melbourne Community Center was a major partner and donated the use of their entire facilities for the day, and a colorful crowd of some 250 people attended for the afternoon and evening event.

There was a beautiful atmosphere, with women in traditional dress, people from different African nations, and other groups bringing food and materials to sell to raise funds. The Steering Committee chose an African charity represented by Ambassador for Peace Theresa Sengaagaa Ssali of the Ugandan Association, who will send the proceeds to UPF-Uganda for the purchase and distribution of wheelchairs.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's "Message on Africa Day" was read by the Co-Chair of the Melbourne Africa Day Steering committee and former President of Zimbabwean Community in Australia (Vic.) Inc., Mr. Stephen Sibanda. Following that, UPF-Victoria Special Projects Director and Africa Day Co-Chair John Bellavance introduced the UPF international support of Africa Day, and offered a PowerPoint presentation on the core values of UPF. The Keynote Speaker, Dr. Berhan Ahmed, Chairperson, African Think Tank Inc., spoke profoundly about a number of integral points regarding the African experience and responsibility of African Australians. Here is an excerpt from his speech.

This afternoon, the African Communities also extend a warm welcome to all invited guests, well-wishers from public and private organizations who have over time shown these new and emerging communities a rare kindness, generosity and support -- many of whom are represented today. I am sure that you will find our young men and women; our community and our people are very committed to their new life and social mix in the ethnic diversity of Australia.

From my own perspective, one of the greatest things about living in Australia is the opportunity to enjoy a seemingly endless array of cultural influences (and culinary delights) from all around the world Ö right here on our doorstep, especially in multicultural Victoria. Across Africa, generous hospitality and a warm welcome have been the cornerstones of cultures for thousands of years. So, it is with the greatest pleasure that I thank you for joining us today and welcome you most warmly to the Africa day celebration.

As guests of the African communities, we hope that you will take the opportunity to savor, explore and enjoy our cultures. We have come somewhat late to the table when compared to other immigrant groups, and ñ yes ñ our cultures are still being discovered in Melbourne, but they hold many special treasures and we invite you to discover their delights. It is also our hope that as Australians get to know African people and their cultures, they will develop a desire to visit our wonderful homelands, to experience their characteristic open-hearted hospitality, strikingly beautiful natural scenery and the charm of a mysterious continent which has beguiled travelers throughout history.

Several invited politicians and community leaders gave their congratulatory remarks, including Dr. Cathy Oke and Jennifer Kanis, Melbourne City Councilors, and Josh Presser, representing the Federal Government's Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

After a break for dinner, community leaders and other volunteers shared comments and inspiring remarks. These included Yassen Musa of the Eritrean Community in Australia, also an important member of the steering committee; UPF Ambassador for Peace Tut Pal Ding, Vice-President of the Lost Boys Association of Australia; and Yasir Mahmud, Senior Employment Consultant with Job Prospects. The closing remarks were offered by Lulir Mohamed Said, the leader of the Eritrean Opposition Party in Australia, who was passionate about his country's needs.

Music and dancing were enjoyed by all and led by Githinji Mbote of the Pan African Community of Australia. Eritrean guitarist and singer Ahmed Abeelrahim offered a beautiful Islamic prayer for peace sung with great emotion. The evening concluded with the Oromo Dance Group delighting guests with unique African music and rhythms and inspired many to come up to dance with them. What a beautiful end to a truly memorable day!

Other supporters and partners

Wang Community Association of Australia -- South Sudan

African Women and Families ñ Southern Region

NUER Community in Victoria Inc. -- South Sudan

Zim Community -- Zimbabwe

Sudanese Lost Boys Association

Ugandan Community in Victoria

Eritrean Community in Australia

Sierra Leone Australia community of Victoria

Libyan Community in Victoria

Collingwood African Community Organization

The success of this event hinged on the commitment, energy and ownership of UPF-Victoria Special Projects Coordinator John Bellavance, ably supported by his wife Anne, who did a great job organizing staff and volunteer support. UPF-Victoria Director Steve Evans and a dedicated steering committee of African community leaders worked very smoothly in good spirit and unity. On the day, the UPF youth group "WEAVE" were the foot soldiers that worked with the Africans to help with set up, food service, and a host of other activities. Others including the Women's Federation for World Peace, and the City of Melbourne YMCA Director Adnan Benhim, who helped bring this event to life. Even the Australian Federal Police, represented by Federal Agent Alan Smith donated $1000 for the costs of the event.

Message of Congratulations from Dr. Ahmed of African Think Tank Inc.

"Congratulations for the wonderful and successful Africa day held yesterday in North Melbourne. It was a very memorable day with young boys and girls enjoying their proud identity.I commend you and the rest of the committee for such leadership, dedication and friendly smile with the crowd and individuals." 

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