Darwin is a tropical melting pot, in more ways than one. There’s the sun and the humidity which can make anyone feel like they’re melting, and then there’s the culture. This small city is jam packed with almost every type of culture under the sun.
Whilst we haven’t officially got a Chinatown we have a rich Chinese heritage. My family came here in the 1860s. It was the Chinese who enabled the fledgling settlement of Darwin to finally establish and flourish. The Chinese from Southern China were ideally suited to life in the Tropics. They provided essential services like laundry, tailoring and market gardens. If it had not been for the Chinese, I am sure the white population would have succumbed to scurvy.
Not only that we’ve got a strong Greek population, with many settlers from our sister city Kalymnos. While on holidays last year I took the opportunity to visit Kalymnos and learn a bit more about their unique place in our history. Kalymnians are the sponge divers of the Aegean Sea. The occupation was hard and dangerous and back at home, the Kalymnian women were tough survivors, keeping the family fed and sheltered for the many months their husbands were at sea. It was this inherent toughness that led to the Kalymnians making such a great contribution to the rebuilding of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy.
And that’s just the tip of the cultural iceberg.
Darwin may not have a huge population, but it certainly has a diverse one. The markets of Parap, Rapid Creek, Nightcliff and of course Mindil Beach (in the Dry) are a great example of mixing cultures, you can eat Thai, Portuguese, Brazilian, Malaysian, Greek, and that’s just a small segment of the available food culture at the markets.
Whether it’s taking visitors to Mindil, or dropping into Parap for a bottle of Mary’s Mum’s Chili Sauce, or holding an information stall at Rapid Creek, it is always wonderful to experience that special market buzz. It is also great to know that when you buy at the markets you are certainly shopping local.
Growing up in Darwin you are instantaneously immersed in the cultural embrace. Every school room would have a great mixture of cultures all bumping along making friends and creating a unique understanding.
I had the great advantage of being born here and experiencing this awesome life’s education. It took being a Cyclone refugee, being forced to go to school at a Western Suburb Sydney public school for me to really appreciate what a privilege it was.
Being Lord Mayor is also a great privilege. It offers the opportunity to continue to recognise and celebrate our great cultural diversity through both individual ethnic community events and big multicultural celebrations such as Harmony Day and OzFusion.
The diversity in Darwin is one of its greatest strengths and brings a richness to our community that many envy. I am very thankful to call Darwin home.