Welcome Tree grows compassion for refugees

Welcome Tree grows compassion for refugees

A ‘welcome tree’ where Sydneysiders can display messages of support for refugees and asylum seekers is one of many highlights of the City of Sydney’s 15th annual Living in Harmony Festival this month.

Iranian refugee, artist and engineer Majid Rabet collaborated with Singapore migrant Jason Koh and Australian artist Cleveland Rose to create the artwork, which will be on display at Customs House from 12 March.

“Art doesn’t need a translator. It’s one language for everyone, and everyone can speak it,” Mr Rabet said.

Mr Rabet said his artistic practice began after arriving in Australia in 2010 and spending two years in immigration detention. He said the Welcome Tree is a ‘symbol of freedom’. He hopes it will bring people together and share a message of peace.

“It doesn’t matter what colour your skin is or what language you speak. We should all live with each other peacefully and help make a good life for each other,” Mr Rabet said.

Harmony Day Children's Festival First Fleet Park, The Rocks

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said Living in Harmony invited Sydneysiders to explore the city’s rich multicultural heritage and learn from the experiences of our diverse communities.

“Sydney is one of the most diverse cities in the world. It is home to the oldest continuous living culture in the world, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and people from many other nations, who visit, live and work in our great city,” the Lord Mayor said.

“We’re proud to support the Living in Harmony Festival because it promotes respect, fairness, inclusiveness and a sense of belonging for everyone.

“The festival helps create friendship and understanding between our diverse communities, and provides opportunities for all Sydneysiders to take part in a range of cultural celebrations and events.”

Other festival highlights include a multilingual poetry slam, which coincides with Harmony Day on 21 March. Organised by Word Travels, multilingual poets will share stories about their identity, culture and community in their native language.

Stand-up comedians and actors will come together on 23 March for an hour of laughs, followed by a Q&A session, in the hilarious and provocative Comedy vs Racism show. Special guests Jennifer Wong, Suren Jayemanne, Benny Eggmolesse, Jen Carnovale and Bish Marzook will share their stories and experiences about discrimination and racism.

“The Living in Harmony Festival provides us with an opportunity to exchange ideas, participate in a range of cultural events and celebrate our rich, diverse community,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Harmony Day coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – an important reminder of the need to promote respect and inclusion and to be vigilant against racism in our community.”

For the full program of events visit livinginharmonyfestival.com.au or #everyonebelongs

For media inquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Advisor Elaine Kelly on 0477 362 550 or email ekelly@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Paul Mackay on 0432 182 647 or email pmackay@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

Living in Harmony Festival highlights

Dawn yoga and meditation
When:              6.30am, Wednesday 8 March 2017
Where:            KGV, 3 Cumberland Street, The Rocks
What:               Celebrate International Women’s Day and the Living in Harmony Festival by attending one of the biggest yoga gatherings in Australia. Yoga schools and classes will join together to form a human mandala. All levels of yoga are welcome.
Cost:                Free. Bookings essential.

Welcome Tree
When:              11am to 12.30pm, Sunday 12 March 2017
Where:            Barnet Long Room, Customs House, 31 Alfred Street, Sydney
What:               The Welcome Tree will feature Tabel (Iraqi) drumming and Persian music, and a number of speakers sharing their refugee stories. View the Welcome Tree installation and add a message of support for refugees. Doors open from 10.30am.
Visit whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/events/welcome-tree-celebratory-launch
Cost:                Free. Bookings essential.

Breaking Bread
When:              11am–1pm, Wednesday 15 March 2017
Where:            Redfern Community Centre, 29-53 Hugo Street, Redfern
What:               Multicultural bread-making demonstrations and conversations with author and cook Cecile Yazbek and local Aboriginal catering company owner Jo-Ann Wolles. On the menu is Arabic flat-bread and Aboriginal damper.
Visit whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/events/breaking-bread
Cost:                Free. Bookings essential.

Breaking Barriers
When:              9am–2pm, Friday 17 March 2017
Where:            Barnet Long Room, Customs House, 31 Alfred Street, Sydney
What:               Join experienced performance artists in a creative workshop that challenges stereotypes about culture. The four hour event will provide an opportunity to explore self-expression through different art forms, including live theatre, choreography and movement.
Visit whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/events/breaking-barriers
Cost:                Free. Bookings essential.

Children’s Festival
When:              11am–5pm, Sunday 19 March 2017
Where:            First Fleet Park, George Street, The Rocks
What:               Enjoy a spectacular entertainment program performed by almost 30 groups from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and attended by thousands of children and their families.
Children will love the parade, outdoor activities, workshops, arts and crafts and animal farm. Visit whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/events/childrens-festival-2017
Cost:                Free

Multilingual Poetry Slam
When:              7.30–10pm, Tuesday 21 March 2017
Where:            Customs House, 31 Alfred Street, Sydney
What:               Listen to poets perform in their native language as they share stories about their identity, culture and community. Special guests include the 2016 Multilingual Poetry Slam Champion Bhupen Thakker. Translations provided.
Visit whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/events/multilingual-poetry-slam
Cost:                General admission $12. Bookings essential.

Comedy vs Racism
When:              7–9pm, Thursday 23 March 2017
Where:            Lower Town Hall, 483 George Street, Sydney
What:               Presented by All Together Now, the event features comedy performances and a Q&A panel session. Special guests Jennifer Wong, Suren Jayemanne, Benny Eggmolesse, Jen Carnovale and Bish Marzook, will share their stories and experiences about discrimination and racism.
Visit whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/programs/living-in-harmony-festival
Cost:                $35 general admission. $25 concession.