‘Now you’re Aussies as well’: New neighbours celebrated at 2021 All Culture Fest

Murray Bridge's town hall has been filled with colour and music for an annual Refugee Week festival and Australian citizenship ceremony.

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A group of migrant workers from Vanuatu has nearly stolen the show at Murray Bridge’s 2021 All Culture Fest.

Fifty people from the Pacific island nation arrived in the Murraylands just a few weeks ago to work at Thomas Foods International and Big River Pork.

As soon as they heard about Sunday’s celebration of international culture at Murray Bridge Town Hall – part of Refugee Week – they decided they had to join in.

A dozen of the men broke into vibrant harmonies for the event’s first performance, backed by a montage of island scenery, singing My God Can Do Anything.

They followed it up with an energetic dance to a traditional string band beat.

Murray Bridge News filmed the entire event and broadcast it live on Facebook, where friends and relatives from around the world tuned in.

Other performers at the festival included singers Leah Medina, from the Philippines, Mobolaji Olaitan Akinbo, from Nigeria, and local Hannah Smith; the Chinese-Australian Panda Warriors, who gave a tai chi demonstration; and the women of the Happy Dancing Group, who did a square dance – not the western kind, but a kind practised in public squares in China.

Valerie Snow spoke about her native Russia and Maslenitsa, a celebration of spring, while poet Max Merckenschlager recited one of his works.

The afternoon concluded with a citizenship ceremony at which 31 people from 11 nations made their pledges and became Australians.

Among them were men, women and children from Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Iraq, Liberia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Rwanda, Taiwan, the United States and Vietnam.

It was fantastic that they wanted to be part of Murray Bridge’s community, Mayor Brenton Lewis said.

“I don’t know what the feeling would be that you have in your heart, in your chest, right now, but I imagine it’s immense,” he said to the new citizens.

“(Today) is about coming together as a community ... those acts we’ve seen today, the singing and the dancing, the richness of that that is going to add to our culture.

“We want to embrace that, we want to take that in as Aussies ... and now you’re Aussies as well.”

More photos from the 2021 All Culture Fest follow below.

Disclosure: The author accepted various cupcakes, glow sticks, balloons and seeds from the Rural City of Murray Bridge in lieu of payment for broadcasting the show.

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