Whittlesea Interfaith Network (WIN) hosted its annual Carnival of Connections event on the afternoon of Sunday 22 October 2023, bringing together communities from various ethnic, cultural and faith groups in a colourful celebration of unity, harmony and peace.

Despite grey and rainy Melbourne skies, a crowd of up to 500 people flocked to the Epping Memorial Hall to attend the uplifting event.

Whittlesea Interfaith Network is a not-for-profit community organisation operating in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. WIN has a long and proud history of developing platforms for Interfaith dialogue in the City of Whittlesea with the aim of promoting peace, understanding and harmony across faith and culture.

The Carnival of Connections was officially opened by WIN President Gurinder Kaur with an acknowledgement of country, followed by the Australian National Anthem.

Long-serving member Glenys Southurst read the opening interfaith prayer and was also acknowledged for her ongoing commitment and dedication to the organisation.

Mrs Southurst has been actively involved in the Whittlesea Interfaith Network since 2007 and has been Secretary since 2008.

A Minute of Silence for worldwide peace and all victims of recent natural and man-made disasters was observed by everyone present before the first two performances took to the stage to proudly display traditional Filipino and Nepalese music, attire and dances.

The event’s keynote speaker was the Hon Andrew Giles MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs who also represented his local electorate of Scullin in which the Whittlesea Interfaith Network operates.

The Hon Andrew Giles MP stated that this event was “an incredibly important gathering at any time, but especially right now. That sense of sharing and understanding is more important than ever before.”

He further added: “The essence of the importance of the Interfaith Network is that we have so much more in common than what divides us, and we gain so much in our individual lives by seeing the world through the perspective of other people.”

The audience was then treated to energising beats of Punjabi and Sri Lankan dancing, Bollywood singing and the booming sounds of traditional Malay percussion and drums by Kampung Utara Melbourne (KUM).

The troupes from the Australian Chaldean Family Welfare group and Punjabi Theatre and Folk Academy Inc. got the audience off their seats and onto their feet by inviting them to join in the rhythms and dance together in front of the stage.

Amongst the organisations and local community groups well represented with stalls where volunteers were answering questions and handing out information, were City of Whittlesea, DPV Health, VIC Police, BreastScreen Victoria, iCAN Australia, Sikh Community Connections, Al Siraat College, Dhamsuwa Forest Monastery & Meditation Centre and the Nepalese Neighbourhood Community.

Special thanks goes to Epping-based Al Siraat College for having 30 of their Secondary students volunteers in support of the event which saw students help with the event setup and clean-up, as kitchen hands and also applying beautiful free henna art and face painting.