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Safe space to speak up

By Andrew Humphries

While some organisations pay lip service to the concepts of inclusion and diversity, one regional congregation is setting the standard in giving a voice to some groups who might otherwise never be heard.

After a lengthy break, Uniting Queenscliff will hold its popular Sacrededge Festival at the end of this month, and support worker and volunteer Margot Busch couldn’t be more excited about it.

COVID-19 restrictions meant the 2020 and 2021 festivals couldn’t proceed, but Margot says it’s full steam ahead for the 2022 event.

Kicking off in 2014, the Sacrededge Festival has become a shining example of how an energetic and well-organised church community event can bring people together to celebrate inclusion and diversity.

Once again, this year’s event recognises and highlights our First Nations people, refugees, the LGBTIQ community, and all things environmental, with a focus on earth and ocean, and wellbeing.

The celebration takes place through numerous events over the three-day program involving presenters, artists and musicians at a number of venues in and around the Queenscliff church site.

The focus is on recognising the many people “on the edge” who might not normally get the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Organisers describe the festival as a positive response to a “sometimes harsh and fearful world”.

“It’s an opportunity to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and this unique festival listens to people from the edge (and) their stories, music and poetry.

“Sacrededge is a lived experience of how we can treasure each other in all our glorious diversity and find our hearts and minds expanded and enriched.

“This festival pulls all those voices on the edge together under one roof and it’s unique in that sense.

“You can connect with all these voices in separate environments, but the festival is a place where you can hear all of them together, and it’s a powerful experience for everyone.

“Even more importantly, it’s also about giving a safe and sacred space to those voices.”

Margot says Uniting Queenscliff is proud of the fact Sacrededge gives a platform to people who may not otherwise be heard.

“Some of the presenters who come here have been derided in other places they have spoken at or performed,” she says.

“So they have been a bit hesitant when they come here to talk to a bunch of strangers, but then quickly work out how welcome they are, and cared for, and feel so comfortable they ask to return the following year.

“We might have presenters of an LGBTIQ background who haven’t had a lot to do with our First Nations people, so there is an opportunity to strike up a connection there, while there is also an opportunity for refugees to talk about their experiences.”

Engagement and interaction is one of the wonderful features of Sacrededge Festival.

Margot says that connection made between people of different backgrounds is one of the defining features of Sacrededge.

“The difference between this festival and others that I have been to is the interaction between all of the people involved – presenters, ticket holders and volunteers,” she says.

“There is a lot of interaction taking place outside the specific events, which is a little bit different to other festivals, and that left an impression on me (when I first started volunteering).

“So there is an encouragement to connect, not just listen, observe, see and hear, but to take advantage of opportunities and encouragement to get to know more about those people’s stories, in between session times.

“It’s more about just listening, there is a lot of learning through the connections made.”

Margot says Sacrededge fits in perfectly with the Uniting Church’s own ethos supporting inclusion and diversity.

“Ours is a very inclusive church and this festival is about inclusion and diversity,” she says.

“Someone from the Uniting Church in NSW attended the last festival and stayed with me and, afterwards, she said this sort of thing should be happening all around Australia.

“The opportunity for diverse community representation should be happening in these small settings, where you are able to seek as much information as you want.”

With preparation well under way, Margot is looking forward to welcoming back a festival which the wider community once again embraces.

“We’re very excited to be able to present Sacrededge again this year,” Margot says.

Among some of the performers and presenters will be indigenous musician Scott Darlow, climate scientist David Karoly, refugee advocate Awale Ahmed and Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner Ro Allen.

Sacrededge begins Friday, April 29 and those attending must be fully vaccinated. For tickets, click here

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