Below are a series of articles, photos and graphics of the Cultural Stomp. Rather than me writing about it here, just read the articles – one from the NSW Government Hansard, one I wrote for “Education Australia” and there is the editorial I wrote for the 2007 Tenth Anniversary of the Cultural Stomp. I was one of the original founders of this amazing Festival, being part of the organising group we called Cultures in Action ( CIA ).
Cultural Stomp, 1998
Newcastle Celebrates it’s Cultural Diversity
Around Easter, 1997, there was a feeling in the City of Newcastle’s air that was brittle, if not fragile. BHP had just announced the closure of its steelworks and 2500 workers were to be on the scrap heap by 2000. Many of these workers had literacy and numeracy learning needs. The “downsizing” of BHP also would have a painful effect on ethnic communities of the Hunter, with about 600 non English speaking background workers needing extra English language skills.
The Hunter region was in a state of shock, because those 2500 workers retrenched would by the multiplier effect mean another 12 to 20,000 jobs would also disappear in the region. Newcastle was hurting, and hurting bad. So when, only a couple of weeks later, the announcement that the One Nation Party was to be launched for the first time in NSW on 30 May, 1997 at the Civic Theatre in Newcastle it was important that an alternate forum for people with opposing views should be organised.
Drawn by a common need and a common objective, a diverse group of citizens met at Wollatuka, Newcastle University to see what would be done. A young Aboriginal student stood up and said to the circle of people who had gathered, “Hi, my name is Belinda and I’m glad that so many people have shown up today. I want to do something about Pauline coming to visit us, but I don’t want to yell at her… I want to do something positive… I want to celebrate what we already have in our city. Who also wants to?” Instantly people called out “Yes” in their diverse ways. We divided up into work groups and we all knew that whatever we come up with we only had three weeks to organise it. We decided that on the same night that Pauline Hanson was speaking we would hold a celebration of our cultural diversity in Civic Park which is only about 200 metres from Civic Theatre. Some us met later at the Pod, and we called the event, The Cultural Stomp and our group, Cultures In Action (CIA).
On the night, over five thousand people turned up at Civic Park to let One Nation know that we have something to celebrate in our local community ; we were celebrating our diversity and the unity of that diversity as Australians. With dancing, singing, music, poetry, fire twirling and a Ceremony scheduled at the same time Pauline Hanson was due to speak, The Cultural Stomp made its debut. Outside the Theatre, where 1000 people paid $10 to listen to Hanson, there was a large crowd of people letting her know that her views weren’t necessarily felt by a large percentage of people living in Newcastle. In many ways, the Cultural Stomp was a reconciling force to the active and the resistant forces of One Nation and confronting each other outside the theatre. The Lord Mayor was quoted in the Newcastle Herald as saying, “If it wasn’t for The Cultural Stomp last night, there may well have been violence.”
This year, Cultures in Action (CIA) met once again to see if we would organise another Cultural Stomp. In a fundamental way the purpose was the same as last year; to hold a peaceful celebration of Newcastle’s cultural diversity and unity in Civic Park. The only difference this year was that we didn’t have the visual presence of the One Nation Party to contend with, which meant that we probably wouldn’t get the media exposure and build up of hype. The process of organising the event, the networking and the seeking of support and sponsorship revealed that Newcastle loved the concept of The Cultural Stomp. Its sponsors and supporters included Newcastle City Council; The Pod; Newcastle City Centre; Newcastle Trades Hall Council; Ethnic Affairs Commission; Awabakal Co-Op; New South Wales Ministry of the Arts; Hunter Area Health; Newcastle University Student Association; Purrimaibahn Unit; Migrant Resource Centre; Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre; Ethnic Communities Council; Hunter Institute of Technology Association; Newcastle University Union; Newcastle Workers Club;Wollatuka; Fast Events; Ron Hartree Art School; Alan Morris M.P; Bryce Gaudry M.P., Brian Birkefeld and many more.
Three nights before the event, at the end of the Sorry Service for the Stolen Generation at the Anglican Cathedral, the bishop said, “Don’t forget to come to The Cultural Stomp at Civic Park on Saturday.” The night before the event I had returned home late after working with fellow CIA members making lanterns and the bamboo and paper Globe of Reconciliation for the Cultural Stomp Ceremony. As I walked through the door my kids called out, “Dad, come quickly, The Cultural Stomp is on TV!” I rushed over and saw our logo of the nine petalled flower and heard our event announced in the middle of a football game between the Newcastle Knights and Western Suburbs Roosters. From an utterance in the Cathedral to the middle of a televised footy game, The Cultural Stomp was announced.
On the day we had crowds coming and going in the thousands. This year’s Stomp included Hunter Institute of Technology’s Purrimaibahn Unit displaying art and writings from TAFE students and kids at infant, primary and high schools of our region. It was a wonderful gesture of reconciliation where Aboriginal people shared their work, their hopes and dreams of living in harmony with other members of our culturally diverse community. Throughout the day, performances and speeches from the local multicultural community kept people entertained and informed. We had started the day at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with an Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony; at dusk we were united in the Globe of Reconciliation Fire Ceremony; and the night ‘finished’ at 10 o’clock with dancing irt the park.
Two weeks later, after the news of the One Nation win in Queensland, I was talking to a few students and teachers in the sun outside the classrooms. Someone raised the spectre of Hansonism and an Aboriginal student said, “Newcastle is OK, we had the Stomp and people here are OK.” Someone else said, “You know, I walked through Civic Park the other day, and it was different. I could still remember all the people and the kids painting the didgeridoos, the South Pacific Islanders dancing and just the whole thing. The Cultural Stomp has changed the way I see Civic Park.”
Cultures in Action is planning another Cultural Stomp for next year and it promises to be bigger and better; regardless of the political landscape.
Education Australia, 1998
Legislative Assembly Hansard (Extract)
Hansard extract, NSW Legislative Assembly, 7 June 2000 (article 36).
Speakers: Gaudry Mr Bryce; Markham Mr Colin | Speech Type: PRIV; Private Members Statements
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.52 p.m.]: Last Saturday, together with several thousands of Newcastle and Hunter people, I participated in the fourth Cultural Stomp in Newcastle, an event the aim of which is to bring people together. The Cultures In Action Committee organised the event to nurture the spirit of the culturally diverse Australian society, to give people the opportunity to work together and celebrate reconciliation while simultaneously respecting differences and commonality in our cultures. That cultural event occurred approximately a week after one of the greatest, if not the greatest, demonstrations of solidarity that one could ever wish to see, when hundreds of thousands of people came together in Sydney to celebrate Corroboree 2000 and reconciliation with Australia’s indigenous people.
The Cultural Stomp was first staged in Newcastle in May 1997 as a strong but peaceful statement opposing the strong and divisive politics that were being espoused at that time by One Nation. The whole approach was to bring people together into social action and in peace to demonstrate all the values that can be combined in a community rather than focusing on the divisiveness that was occurring at that time. Since that time, the Cultures in Action Committee in Newcastle has built a really successful cultural event which takes place in Civic Park, opposite Newcastle City Hall. The events bring together a whole range of young people and community groups such as the ethnic communities in Newcastle, the arts communities and visitors from areas outside Newcastle.
The Cultural Stomp day of celebration includes demonstrations of a whole range of dancing and singing. Very importantly, this year’s celebration involved people who have disabilities. The Life Without Barriers group. Life Without Barriers, a special group in Newcastle that works towards providing access and opportunities to people who have disabilities, participated in performances in Civic Park. One of the really significant events was the participation of Mrs Benita Mabo. Tuesday 6 June was the anniversary of the handing down of the Mabo decision, a decision that has brought about tremendous change. It ended the theory of terra nullius and began the continuing struggle by many indigenous people for reconciliation and recognition of their rights as the original occupants of this land. Mrs Mabo spoke of the personal struggle of Eddie Mabo and the struggles of her own people, the South Pacific Islanders, who came to Australia during the labour trade, which featured blackbirding. She referred to the struggle that continues for her people to obtain recognition in this country.
One of the outstanding features of the day was a performance by the Mulloobinba Newcastle high school dance group, which previewed the dances that they will be performing at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. I congratulate Mrs Barbara Greentree and the dance group on the selection they will perform at the opening Olympic ceremony and also on the performance that was given on the Cultural Stomp day. One of the organisers of the Cultural Stomp, Mrs Lorraine Norton, has adopted a comment from David Suzuki’s book The Sacred Balance, which states that local communities are actually the mainstay during change. It states further:
“The social unit that will have the greatest stability and resilience into the future is the local community which provides individuals and families with a sense of place and belonging, fellowship and support, purpose and meaning.”
That is the whole idea underlying the celebration that takes place annually in Newcastle. Its aim is to bring people together, to celebrate their diversity and the linking of all cultures in Australian society.
Mr MARKHAM (Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.57 p.m.]: The honourable member for Newcastle is to be congratulated for bringing to the attention of this House the Cultural Stomp, which takes place annually in Newcastle. The event is a real demonstration of reconciliation in action—and as I have often said, actions speak louder than words. I congratulate all those involved with the Cultural Stomp. Similar events, as often as possible, should be held in all parts of Australia.
Cultural Stomp 1998
Scanned Editorial from the 10th Anniversary Cultural Stomp Programme, 2007.
Horoscope: Cultural Stomp 4 PM 30 May, 1997, Civic Park, Newcastle, Australia.
2007 Cultural Stomp Poster – note the 9 petalled flower from the first Cultural Stomp in 1997.
Fax message to a friend to circulate latest info, 1997.
First Press Release for Cultural Stomp, 1997
Letter to people, May 1997.
Cultural Stomp, Newcastle
Flyer for Community Meeting to Organise Cultural Stomp in 1998.
From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme
From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme
From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme
Cultural Stomp, Newcastle