THE GOLD COAST – A CITY EMBRACING DIVERSITY
A funky fusion of cultures makes up the rich and colourful tapestry of the Gold Coast community, due in part to almost a third of the population having been born overseas. Interestingly, if you add to that figure the descendants of those born outside Australia, this figure jumps to more than 40 per cent.
This unique multicultural dynamic drives the Gold Coast’s cultural diversity, one that the City of Gold Coast embraces and encourages by providing spaces and programs that support and strengthen local connections.
Take the Gold Coast Student Hub in Southport for example, it’s a co-space that provides a welcoming environment for students to gather and network, in particular the more than 25,000 international students that reside in the city.
Since opening in August it’s been overwhelmingly frequented by thousands of students from 37 nationalities. A Study Gold Coast initiative, the Hub offers free Wi-Fi, student counselling, English language classes and workshops in a warm and friendly space for all.
The Multicultural Communities Council Gold Coast based in Ashmore is the peak body for multicultural communities that has been serving the needs of internationals, migrants and refugees for more than 35 years.
Headed by Sue Graham and staffed by passionate volunteers, most of them born outside of Australia, the organisation is dedicated to providing support to internationals. It’s passionate about helping them settle into the city and ensure they feel as though they’re a valuable member of the Gold Coast community.
This year in partnership with Australian Red Cross, it’s delivering the I Speak Your Language program, an initiative where people can get a friendly call once a week in their language, with a view to helping support those who are socially isolated or have limited English language skills.
With more than 30 volunteers taking on the role, the free service is available in Italian, Spanish, Thai, Bahasa, Korean, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, French, Persian, Finnish, Hungarian and German.
“We know that people are living in small pockets on the Gold Coast and by providing this service we can help support them through these social calls. If you can chat to someone who speaks your language and have a genuine conversation it makes all the difference to how you feel connected to the community,” she says.
Another initiative making a difference are the English conversation circles held across the city’s libraries. They provide a free opportunity to practise conversational English in a relaxed setting, as well as valuable social interactions.
Regular sessions are facilitated by trained volunteers across libraries including Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads, Coolangatta, Elanora, Helensvale, Nerang, Robina, Runaway Bay, Southport and Upper Coomera.
Aside from the multicultural services the city provides there is much to celebrate on the Gold Coast as a global city. Monthly markets are held in Chinatown celebrating the city’s diversity through culture, design, people and food – and it all happens right in the heart of the Southport CBD. The area comes alive with Asian culture, children’s activities and entertainment.
The Gold Coast Multicultural Festival continues to grow in stature each year, providing a venue to celebrate and showcase the skills and talents of the city's diverse cultural communities through a variety of exciting and educational multicultural activities culminating in the main festival day.
Last year the Southport-Broadwater hosted event boasted more than 67 international food stalls and performances from 35 nations. This year it’s set for August 12 and is expected to be even bigger.
In March the annual Harmony Day festivities will once again draw crowds from across the city, this year being particularly special with a Commonwealth Games edition that will see cultural performances pop up at various Gold Coast locations including libraries and schools.
The day coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and is designed to celebrate the Gold Coast’s cultural diversity by raising awareness about respect, inclusiveness, harmony and a sense of belonging.
With a melting pot of cultures, the Gold Coast has never felt more vibrant as the city prepares itself for the world stage with the Commonwealth Games. It augers well for an exciting future as the Gold Coast continues to welcome internationals and encourages them to enhance the dynamic social fabric of the city’s international community.