Should Australian councils spend on Diwali and Lunar New Year celebrations?

A Western Sydney mayor has ignited a new debate with his recent comments on people’s expectations on councils paying for Diwali and Lunar New Year celebrations in Australia.

He was recently quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald advising that ratepayers should not be footing the bill for such events as they are not “a core essential item”.

“Australia Day, Anzac Day, Easter and Christmas are exceptions as they are significantly part of this country’s traditions and Western culture,” Cumberland City mayor Steve Christou told SMH.

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Now, the question that we should ask ourselves is that in a multicultural country like Australia only ‘Australia Day, Anzac Day, Easter and Christmas’ form a significant part of core cultural values?

On his Facebook page, Councillor Suman Saha responded to Mayor Steve Christou.

“I don’t support or endorse the statement by the Mayor, Cumberland City Council on #smh yesterday, 7th Feb 2021.Cumberland City Council is the second largest culturally and linguistically diverse community in #nsw, if not in #Australia. Council’s vision for the future “Welcome,Belong, Succeed” also welcomes people from different backgrounds.”

Cumberland Council in Sydney’s population is one of the most diverse and multicultural in Australia.

SMH pointed out that the City of Sydney has allocated $1.9 million for its Lunar New Year celebrations.

However, it was reported that Cr Christou said members of the diaspora should pay the bill for such celebrations.

“Same applies to other events like Diwali and the like … Council can provide in-kind support without having to dip into its pockets financially.”

Cr Christou pointed out that in the past the council had spent about $60,000 on Lunar New Year events.

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“Whilst we encourage local ethnic groups to celebrate their beliefs and we all enjoy the experience, it should not be the responsibility of council and the ratepayers to financially foot the bill,” he was quoted sighting financial pressures caused by COVID19.

Every year the Australian Prime Minister wishes the diasporic communities on their respective religious and cultural events.

This shows that communities such as Indian and Chinese are part of the Australian identity and success of multiculturalism in the world’s most diverse nation.

In 2016, Karthik Arasu, an Indian-origin candidate who ran for the Australian Senate from Victoria, campaigned for an optional public holiday on Diwali in Australia along with other pressing issues.

So, the question now for taxpayers is should they pay for celebrations such as Diwali and Lunar New Year through councils in Australia?