My children are growing up so white, middle-class suburban, which is a million miles from my upbringing. They’ve learned to not yell, “Look, a brown person!” when we’re in the supermarket, but still tend to point out people with other skin colours — albeit quietly.
So I’m always eager to give them a dose of reality — their pale faces are part of a minority in the global melting pot of humanity. And what better place to do that then at the World Refugee Day Community Festival held in Brisbane every June?
We invited Melanie and her two daughters to join us on the family outing, and more certainly makes the event merrier! We drove in to Annerley and parked as soon as we saw a gap in the cars lining the side of the road.
Ekibin Park was thumping with music and busy with thousands of people (over ten thousand have attended the community festival in past years). As we walked to the main festival grounds, we passed soccer fields marked out in the grass and players being cheered on by spectators lining the sides.
The soccer tournament featured teams made up of different nationalities.
The first performance that we saw was by a dance troupe who performed modified African dances.
The crowd watching were almost all of direct African descent.
The smells of the ethnic food on offer were very enticing, so all my well-laid plans were thrust aside in favour of some rice and sauce, sausages, shish-kebabs and spring rolls.
There were many food stalls set up and run by community groups. I saw traditional foods specifically from Ethiopia, Congo, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, Vietnam, Greece, India and East Africa.
We found a quieter spot away from the main crowds and sat down to sample the food David had bought.
While he was off getting some food, David spotted a camel-ride (free!), so we decided to make that our next priority. Our girls are now experienced jumping castle bouncers, but we decided to delay their turns on that until they had experienced the “cultural” activity on offer.
We waited for the camel-ride for about an hour, sometimes taking turns to take the girls to other attractions while one of us held our family's place in line.
It was fun having the girls in matching outfits (and easy to spot them in a crowd). We were given these clothes by a friend with four girls (and a penchant for dressing her girls alike) who lives on the Gold Coast. Thanks, Simone!
T & B were good company for our girls — especially as we waited in line for the camels!
These girls were behind us in line. Of Sudanese descent, they are more Australian than I was at that age.
"So cute!" was the exclamation when these girls met Delaney.
It was especially nice to have a family day out with David.
When we got close to the front of the line, another mother offered to take Calista with her on the camel so all our kids could have a ride together.
Finally when it was our turn, the girls put on helmets.
The camel chuckled after the girls got on. Aisha was surprisingly brave and eager to try out the ride.
Brioni shared a saddle-space with 9yo B.
After getting used to the rhythm of the camel's movement, the girls relaxed into the sway of things. Aisha even rocked back and forth, exaggerating the animal's movement.
Calista rode with the friendly mum named Sarah, who kept tipping her helmet back so Cali could see and encouraged Calista to look out at the crowds from her height.
Whoa, down she sits! When a camel stands up or sits down, it's a bit of a roller-coaster ride.
Thank you for the ride, Desert Dancer!
The jumping castle was good fun for our three girls and B.
Two volleyball courts were marked out on the grass — one for men and the other for ladies.
There were many small groups of boys kicking footballs around — just like you see in Africa.
I'm not sure if its the World Cup that provoked the extra interest in football or the soccer tournaments held on the fields adjacent to the festival.
Whenever we go out to a crowded event, I try to remember to write some details on the girls' arms in case they get lost. Today I used some bright yellow tape as a "bracelet" that noted David's mobile number.
I carried Dell with me wherever I went.
I loved this lady's hair. So funky.
Basket-weaving was being demonstrated in one tent.
It was interesting that the ladies teaching the technique didn't look "ethnic" at all.
It took this lady about an hour to make this little basket and matching lid.
The ladies running this craft tent had prepared sheets of card with a bit of paperbark glued on as a canvas for dot paintings.
Calista in particular enjoyed this precise form of painting.
Another table held a variety of craft and collage supplies so the girls could decorate paper plates or colour paper people.
Even David was enticed by the craft supplies and made a mask.
As we headed back to our vehicle, Aisha ran ahead, "flying" the kite she had made.
Even walking through the underpass was an exciting adventure!
The girls had to try sliding down the cement embankment underneath the motorway overpass.
As we first headed to the event, I was holding Brioni’s hand, and she kept turning back to look at two African boys walking behind us. I chuckled to myself, thinking that soon the novelty of the dark brown skin would be worn off. Sure enough, today our girls soon got used to being the minority pale faces in a sea of chocolate ones!
I hope that this experience will have taught them in a practical way that minorities are only location-based, and skin-colour is almost inconsequential in finding people to connect with and ways to have fun!