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  4. 10 September 2009

Bankstown Bites Festival

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Speakers - Westwood The Hon Helen
Business - Adjournment, ADJ

Page: 17692

The Hon. HELEN WESTWOOD [5.26 p.m.]: I inform the House about Bankstown Bites, which is more than a food festival. On Saturday 25 July this year I had the delicious experience of participating in the food festival. The city of Bankstown is a living and breathing example of Australia's immigration policy. Since 1797, when Governor Hunter named the area in honour of Sir Joseph Banks, through until today Bankstown has been welcoming migrants and refugees and offering them a new home in Australia. Currently, more than 182,000 people live in the Bankstown local government area, and more than 60 different languages are spoken in the area. Bankstown has a high percentage of children, with 26.3 per cent of its population aged 17 and under, which is 3 per cent higher than the Sydney average, and at the other extreme 8.8 per cent aged over 70, which is 1.5 per cent higher than the Sydney average.

How does a community representing people from all corners of the world—young people, older people and families—find common ground? What do they have in common? What activities do they all enjoy? What would Bankstown have to offer that would encourage Sydneysiders to make the trip to Bankstown? The answer, in a word, is food. Now in its fifth year, Bankstown City Council's Bankstown Bites food festival has become one of the most popular festivals in Sydney and has secured its place on the food calendar. The festival was developed with the aim of encouraging residents to celebrate their similarities—in this case food—as too often multicultural communities rely only on observing the differences. By showcasing the culinary delights that each culture has brought to the city, the Bankstown community now proudly promotes itself as an exciting foodies paradise.

Bankstown Bites is one of Sydney's most authentic and diverse food festivals through its focus on a blending of Asian, European and Middle Eastern cuisines. More than 35,000 Sydneysiders came to Bankstown this year to enjoy cooking demonstrations, food craft and the popular mini food tours, which showcased the central business district's 330 food retailers. Seven themed tours cover the "what" of grocery buying through to the "how" of spice selection, as well as cooking and sweets. The success of these mini tours led to Bankstown being a grant recipient in this year's Sydney International Food Festival in October when Bankstown council will, for the first time, run commercial Asian explorer tours and a progressive dinner entitled "Around the World on a Plate". Each course will feature foods from a different culture based in the Bankstown central business district. A self-guided food map has also been produced so that people can take a mini tour at their leisure.

Bankstown Bites includes elaborate cooking demonstrations. This year the popularity of the four cooking demonstrations led to a sponsorship arrangement with UBI World TV, which ran a 30-minute program in Arabic using footage filmed on the day. The diversity of the community and the size of the crowd that attended this festival also attracted many other sponsors, including Bankstown Sports Club, which provides its sous chef as one of the demonstrators. On the day I had an opportunity to witness his demonstrations, which were so popular and well attended it was hard to find a spot to watch him. The Cumberland newspaper is also a sponsor as are the Express and Lebara Mobile Phones. Demand for recipes produced on the day and more details on the places visited on the tours have led to the creation of a dedicated website, which can be found at www.bankstownbites.com.au.

Between cooking sessions, local performers entertained and added to the colour of the day. Those performers were also from within the local area. Food is the theme and all the stores must reflect that fact. One of the local youth programs in Bankstown joined the festival for the first time this year, running a cake decorating competition where young people partnered with police officers to produce the best looking cake. Another new feature was a fully functioning eco-garden along with a worm farm to show how easy it is to grow one's own vegetables on a small amount of land or in a tub in a water-efficient way. Stemming from this festival the Benevolent Society recently asked Bankstown council to partner it in its western Sydney community garden campaign and a master chef-style cook-off.

Bankstown council is investigating a coffee and wine Twilight Bites festival to be held in another of its vibrant town centres next May. What started as a simple harmony project for Bankstown residents developed into a new and positive image for that city. Bankstown is used to getting more than its fair share of attention but too frequently for the wrong reasons. Its new status as a food landmark is bringing revenue, life and acknowledgement to the old city plaza area as a unique culinary corner of south-west Sydney. It is also resulting in positive media coverage with a new generation of Sydneysiders keen to experience something a little different. Most importantly, it has generated a sense of pride in the community as well as successfully generating genuine harmony.