Stefanovic multicultural honour ‘divisive’, say critics
A plan to build a park honouring Serbian culture including Today Show host Karl Stefanovic has been accused of inciting racism and fostering division in one of Sydney's most multicultural areas.
The original plan for the park was suggested to Liverpool Council by the Serbian Orthodox Youth Organisation to honour the area's Serbian heritage - but was later tweaked to become simply a "multicultural park" in a bid to make it more inclusive.
But despite the change, the council voted in favour of the park housing a "Serbian section", sparking a backlash from local residents who say demarcating areas of the park by nationality is divisive and against the spirit of multiculturalism.
"Direct the Chief Executive Officer to work closely with SOYA to develop a Serbian section of the Liverpool Multicultural Park," the council's motion said.
Liverpool community advocate Michael Andjelkovic, who has a Serbian heritage himself, said there were over 120 different nationalities, ethnic and cultural groups in Liverpool and all of them should be acknowledged.
"We should acknowledge everyone for their contribution and being part of Liverpool, that is what multiculturalism is about," he said.
"I don't want the rest of the wider Liverpool community to perceive the Serbian Community as being separatists."
Similarly, councillor Karress Rhodes also called for the "Serbian section" to be scrapped.
"We claim to be one of the most successful multicultural places in Australia and the only thing which makes us successful is by being inclusive," she said.
"It disturbs me … I wasn't happy with the motion because it is divisive and I believe all multiculturalism should be inclusive."
Clr Tony Hadchiti who moved the motion said his intention was never to divide the community along racial lines.
"We're not trying to segregate any community in Liverpool," he said.
He said the intention of the motion was rather to honour the Serbian youths who devised the original plan for the park.
"Part of the park has got to recognise them, whether they are a part of it, whether it is in conjunction with each other," he said.
Serbian Orthodox Youth Association's Michael Mijatovic said he envisaged the park would be open to everyone while different sections would represent certain large groups within the local community.
"The way I understood that is to work with us with how (the park) is celebrating multiple large groups, how each group wants their "section" to reflect their history and their story," he said.
In a statement the council's acting chief executive Eddie Jackson said the location of the future park was yet to be decided but said it would be inclusive.
"A comprehensive community engagement plan will form part of the proposed plan and will ensure all residents can have their say," he said.
Originally published as Stefanovic multicultural honour 'divisive', say critics