Enriching Cultural Identity at MACS

Traditional celebrations underlie any culture. They’re woven into our cultural identity. Who we are, who we come from, where we come from. Keeping us connected to our own culture. Celebrating traditional holidays can enrich us whilst grounding us in our own identity at the same time. Cultural identity feeds our sense of self, how we relate to others and general wellbeing.

MACS celebrates its vision, mission and values that embrace cultural connection and communal bonding through a mammoth, ongoing program of national day festivities. It’s no mean feat for the MACS’ community is made up of staff, volunteers, residents, consumers and families from a wide variety of different cultures. 61 different nationalities in fact. This includes the Aussie culture of which there are 26% in residential care and 42% of the 294 staff and volunteers. That’s quite a number in anybody’s book to intermingle seamlessly and share each other’s ancestral traditions.

Other resident nationalities include Croatian, Dutch, German, Italian, Greek Ukrainian, Polish, Scottish and many more. With 58% of staff and volunteers coming from cultural backgrounds other than Anglo-Australian, communication and cultural awareness easily maps across to the residents’ cultures.  Some staff and volunteers even more speak languages other than those of their country of origin. Some staff know to sit with residents at Easter and dye the Easter eggs with them according to their individual tradition.

Every month, a suite of national day revelling happens, peaking to the many vibrant Christmas parties held in December. These include Chinese New Year, Shrove Tuesday, St Patrick’s day, Polish national day, German October Fest, Bastille day, Macedonian National day to name but a few. And the Aussie cohort at MACS is never forgotten on Australia day. There’s the mountain of pies and lamingtons to be had along with an unforgettable thong throwing competition.

These functions are organised and run by the resolute MACS’ lifestyle team who attend to every detail with immaculate precision and care. They make sure all the music at these functions is culturally right, and that no resident misses out on celebrating their own culture.

For each function, there’s even a national flag ceremony, along with flag bearers. Everyone gets to natter on favourite and familiar topics in their own language. If a speech is made in the national language, then an interpreter is always at hand for those who do not understand that language.

But there’s more. On the national day, the relevant flag adorns each house in the facility; everyone on site wears national colours or national costumes and fascinating, familiar artifacts are displayed, the relevant national anthem is sung. Another big feature is that each resident attending the festivities gets to have a special MACS’ passport. It’s stamped on the day as if they have entered the country being celebrated. Every year the stamps even change.

And in remembering cultural identity, there may be those for whom this has waned over the years.  Perhaps it had been washed away to some extent in the tide of a new Australian life.  For some may have arrived on a bride’s ship after the Second World War, or left a remote village to make a better life for their children. Others may have worked in factories in Broadmeadows, or grown grapes in Mildura and been quite occupied with this. During Italy’s post-war mass migration, thousands of Italians flocked to Australia’s east coast for work and were among those who helped build Warragamba Dam in 1948.

But celebrating their own culture, might hit some ancient foundations. Take the culture of Greece for instance, which has evolved over thousands of years dating from the Paleolithic era. It would be returning to Greekness, Greek culture, and the Greek sense of family. Something like speaking own Greek language may even hark back to being Yia Yia again telling the Greek stories, rhymes and history to their children.

In any case, it’s clear to any visitor at MACS that MACS’ national activities are not window dressing. Rather, they brim with passion, sense of belonging, security and meaning for all who attend. Family members are invited to play their music, sing their songs and help with displays and costumes even. Residents on Italian national day or Republic Day, their Festa della Repubblica, sing along with an Italian band with a gusto all of its own.

But it’s when MACS’ lifestyle staff come proudly dressed in Ottoman Empire regalia, and twirl their hankies around and above their heads, getting right into Zorba’s dance, something might dawn on us at. And it’s about how cultural connection is celebrated and fulfilled at MACS and that it is the real deal for sure.

Resources

MACS Cultural Diversity Report 31 Dec 2017

Georgina Tsolidis, Greek-Australian families, Families and Cultural Diversity in Australia, Australian Institute of family studies https://aifs.gov.au/publications/families-and-cultural-diversity-australia/6-greek-australian-families

The Gift of Celebration at MACS 

Various contributors, Culture: Top 10 Reasons Why Culture is so Important August 17, 2016  https://www.importantindia.com/23863/culture-top-10-reasons-why-culture-is-so-important/

https://www.harmony.gov.au/events/calendar/

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