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Diversity in action

Following the trail of diversity in the Australian Capital Territory.

Nic Manikis

Wendy Dawes


Nic Manikis, Director of the ACT Office for Multicultural Affairs, sits behind a desk, seemingly swamped by reams of paper filed in various trays. Behind his left shoulder, there is a basket labelled with, 'Too hard'. And yet, the man sitting behind the desk doesn't seem like the kind of person who would find much too hard, so one can probably assume the pile in this tray will eventually succumb to his bright-eyed gaze.

Nic is passionate about his job, and passionate about his city. Of Canberra, he says, "It's my home, my work, my playground, my community, my heard, my city."

Born in in Cooma, NSW, Nic grew up in Queanbeyan and southern NSW.

"My cultural identity, I'd say, is very much typical Australian," says Nic. "I spent summers down on the south coast as much as possible with family and friends, fishing and swimming and having barbies.

"In winter time, I played rugby union and would go out with mates or head up to the snowy mountains region for skiing.

"My cultural heritage on the other hand is very much steeped in Greek tradition," he explains. "I have a large extended family and we are proudly of Greek heritage.

"I feel very lucky to have grown up in Australia but to also have had the opportunity to explore my heritage through speaking the Greek language with my family, enjoying traditions passed down through generations and being a part of the wider culturally diverse community we all enjoy here in the Canberra region."

In his role at the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Nic is exposed to the huge range of races, cultures and religions, which gives him a unique insight into Canberra's diverse community and how we fair as a city in terms of tolerance and inclusivity.

"I think [Canberra is tolerant and inclusive]," he says. "I'm proud of how we have embraced our cultural diversity and celebrate it throughout the year at events which show our differences as well as our similarities such as Ramadan and Diwali and, of course, the annual National Multicultural Festival, which in 2016 will mark 20 years. This year, we had more than 270,000 people at the event in Civic over three days."

Of his own individual experience, he is similarly encouraging.

"I can't recall anything in particular that made me sad or angry in terms of anyone commenting on my Greek heritage," says Nic. "I'm a very positive and upbeat type of person with an Aussie sense of humour. I'm sure if I heard anyone say something negative to me or others around me, I'd handle the situation by maybe using a bit of humour or just talking with the person to let them that's not right."

But, he adds, "Racism in any form, direct or lateral, is unacceptable."

Nic's advice for creating an environment where cultural diversity is simply accepted as normal is communication.

"There's so many things we can all do to celebrate our cultural diversity through this very special and important campaign. We can talk about it. We can promote it through our workplaces and community centres. We can provide encouragement to people to share their cultural heritage and embrace it."