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The New Beginnings: Refugee Arts & Culture Festival 2016 was a standout success, with more than three thousand people coming together to celebrate the talents and skills of artists who were refugees and asylum seekers.

New Beginnings: Refugee Arts & Culture Festival 2016
The Folkloric Group of the Iraqi Cultural Festival presented a singing and dancing spectacular.


Held as part of Refugee Week, New Beginnings 2016 featured a one-day event at Darling Harbour on June 18, followed by an art exhibition and documentary screening as part of Open Marrickville.

Planning for New Beginnings 2017 is currently underway, but in the meantime, here are five highlights from this year’s event.

1. Mouth watering food

Festival attendees experienced a round-the-world food safari without having to leave Sydney during the New Beginnings launch event in Darling Harbour on June 18.

From Vietnamese and Sri Lankan street food to traditional cuisine from Africa and Iraq, the arts and culture festival was a gastronome’s delight.

2. Cross-cultural performance

The Darling Harbour festival showcased a strong line up of musical and dance performances, with the audience size often multiplying as passers-by stopped to admire the talent on show.

The themes of hope, unity and new beginnings were on display when the Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra took to the stage with a performance that drew inspiration from close to a dozen different cultures.

3. A moving documentary premiere

There was hardly a dry eye in the house when the credits rolled for Maher Jamous’s powerful documentary, Faraway… So Close to Homeland, which profiled 10 Syrian refugees as they adjusted to life outside their home country.

The articulate documentary subjects cast a new light on the exodus that has occurred in Syria since civil war broke out in 2011, bringing home the reality that many Syrians face as what was considered a temporary conflict looks increasingly long term.

4. Community united in art

The closing event for the New Beginnings art exhibition saw Sydneysiders come together with artists from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds during an afternoon of art, food and live music.

The artworks on display were the perfect backdrop to the event, with darker themes of loss and uncertainty contrasting with the artists’ hope for freedom, safety and a new beginning in Australia.

5. Strong entrepreneurial spirit

One of the most heartening highlights was the strong display of entrepreneurial spirit from the refugee and asylum seeker community.

This spirit was embodied in stallholders who showcased leather goods, photographs and more at the arts and culture festival, along with the talented entrepreneurs who catered the documentary premiere and closing event. The wealth and diversity of participants’ businesses affirmed research showing the strong entrepreneurial potential in the refugee community.

Thank you to everyone who made the New Beginnings: Refugee Arts & Culture Festival 2016 such a success. Stay tuned for details of New Beginnings 2017!

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