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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1411

Mr WATTS (Gellibrand) (11:33): The first part of each year, the summer, is a very special time in my electorate in Melbourne's west. It is festival season. I have spent almost every weekend for the past two months attending all the excellent festivals in Gellibrand. Events range from huge showground experiences to street festivals. These community festivals are a great opportunity for communities to engage with each other, to share the joy of the warmer months with each other and to experience and learn about everything that is going on in our community. Community groups have the opportunity to fundraise at these events and local businesses have the opportunity to promote themselves.

These festivals draw huge crowds from all over Melbourne. However, these events could not happen without the tireless work of many dedicated volunteers. I would like to take the time today to acknowledge some of the many groups and volunteers that have been involved in making these events a reality. It takes a huge amount of work, and often months, to pull together one of these occasions. The logistics involved, and the coordination with hundreds, if not thousands, of people, is a massive organisational feat. I will focus on just a few of the extraordinary efforts by members of my constituency to coordinate these incredible events.

This year's festival season kicked off with the East Meets West Lunar New Year Festival, organised by the Footscray Asian Business Association and its president, Wing La, along with Hai Pham, the festival organiser, and the Vietnamese Students Association. For 24 years this festival in Footscray has been an inclusive event that recognises and celebrates the importance of Lunar New Year to the Asian community living in the western suburbs of Melbourne. East Meets West has 50 stalls and attracts around 20,000 people to Footscray each year.

Continuing the Lunar New Year celebrations was the Tet Festival at the Melbourne Showgrounds, a weekend-long event with fireworks, great food and cultural exhibits. This festival has been running for 35 years and was organised by the Vietnamese Community in Australia association, Victorian Chapter, particularly by Dan-Than Nguyen, Albert Lee, Viv Nguyen, Giang Nguyen, Thi Nguyen, Damien Nguyen and Catriona Nguyen-Robertson.

Each year, to celebrate Australia Day the Altona Village Traders Association hold a beach market, an enormous festival on the beautiful beach down in Altona. This family-friendly event has been running for 10 years now. It really shows off and puts on display the fantastic beach we have down in Altona. Sharron Walsh and an organising committee of volunteers run this free event for many thousands of people in Melbourne's west.

Last weekend was the Yarraville Festival, which celebrated 100 years of Yarraville life this year and was organised by the local Yarraville community. It is run by Festival Manager and President Brenton Burley and his executive management team of Carla Smith, Steven Los, Laurens Goud and Daniel Anderson, as well as a dedicated team of volunteers. This year I was happy again to participate in the world-famous dog show.

Upcoming festivals include the Seddon Festival, which has been a longstanding community favourite. It is organised each year by the fantastic team of volunteers from the Seddon Community Group, who are led this year by Katrina Mittemiaer. Thanks also to Steven Los, the president of this group, and a list of other dedicated volunteers too long to read out.

Also coming up in Melbourne's west is the West Footscray Festival of Colours, which includes a traditional 'throwing of the colours' to mark Holi, the Hindu festival of colours. I would like to acknowledge the committee's efforts in getting this new festival off the ground. I hope that it too becomes a longstanding feature in our festival life in Melbourne's west. Committee members Sharee Grinter, Pratima Prabhu, Mark Tiwari and Sonia Dhillon deserve particular recognition.

We are also lucky to be able to celebrate the world-famous St Jerome's Laneway Festival, which has continuously attracted huge crowds to Footscray since its inception and has become a staple on any music lover's festival list. In 2005 Danny Rogers returned from a stint working in New York as a band booker and planned a secret show with his friend Jerome Borazio. With a tiny stage crammed down one end of a skinny alleyway, the line-up of bands, pulled largely from the Summer Series, drew a sold-out crowd, as it has since the festival has moved to Footscray in my electorate. It is a great advertisement for the kind of festival life that we enjoy in our community. It is a fantastic advertisement for life in Melbourne's west.

This is just a snapshot of some of the fantastic festivals we enjoy in Melbourne's west. There are so many more. I strongly encourage anyone to come and visit one. These festivals bring our community together, showcasing what is great about the lifestyle in Melbourne's west. Thank you again to each and every volunteer and organiser for these festivals. Your efforts in pulling together these valuable community events are not overlooked; they are valued by the community. Your hard work has not gone unnoticed.