The Midsumma Multicultural Festival in the inner-city municipality of Burchett Hill was "a wonderful celebration of community cohesion in the spirit of Australian mateship," the Mayor, Councillor Les Rhiannon, told last night's council meeting. He said that the ceremony of handing over the title deeds of the Town Hall to its traditional owners, the Tomanjeri people, had been "a big step forward on the road to reconciliatory progress". Its significance, he said, had "not been detracted from" by a "hiccup" when the smoking ceremony to purify the building from "racist spirits" had activated the sprinkler system and drenched the council chamber. In the ensuing inundation IT systems in the Rates, Animal Management and Diversity offices short-circuited, starting a fire that spread to the adjacent municipal library in which most of  the few books still on the shelves after a "cull" of "seldom-consulted print stock" were damaged - "beyond repair I'm happy to report," says progressive-minded librarian Deirdre Kindle. Water from the fire hoses swirled into the Town Hall's basement kitchens, causing a flash flood that washed away an afternoon tea waiting to be served to the guests upstairs. Wattleseed sandwiches and witchetty rolls floating on the tide blocked drains and brought an accusation of "anthropogenic waste pollution" from council's Environmental Protection Commissariat (formerly City Engineer's Department) which had not been informed of the politically impeccable cause of the mishap.

At the high point of the ceremony, Councillor Rhiannon presented the title deeds, rendered illegible by contact with the water, to Tomandjeri "Auntie" Doris McGillicuddy-O'Halloran-Warrambungle, who refused to accept them, describing them as "typical white-invader tokenism" in that they represented not an absolute transfer of ownership but were subject to a "leaseback" clause. Signalling to a group of delegates from the Aboriginal "tent consulate" opposite the Town Hall, who began to hurl spears, she extracted a piece of bone wrapped in a tissue from the recesses of her Ferragamo handbag and pointed it at Councillor Rhiannon, who declared the ceremony closed and, attended by paramedics, said he had been "touched" to be a "first-hand privileged witness of traditional spirituality in action", normally reserved for Tomanjeri eyes only.

The Pride March arranged by Burchett Hill's Non-Hetero-Gender Alliance was another highlight of the festival and "a huge success", although the police contingent in the march ("Officers Who Are Out") was obliged to call in reinforcements when the marchers, turning a corner, were unexpectedly confronted with another festival event, the multicultural tableau "Sons of the Caliphate", who were demonstrating their artistry with the scimitar to an enthralled audience. At the sight of the marchers and their forest of rainbow flags the Sons erupted in bloodcurdling warrior cries, quite drowning out the strains of the late Dusty Springfield singing "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" over the loudspeakers. Scimitars whipping to left and right, they surged into the crowd, slashing a number of "Gay Marriage Now!" and "Gay, Green and Glad of It" banners and causing consternation among a contingent of Lesbian couples wheeling pushchairs (from several of which arose placards held in pudgy infant hands with the legend "Scissoring is Good for You"). Squealing activists from the Burchett Hill collective of OutRage! dived for cover, their chant of "Hey, hey, Tony A. How do we know that you're not gay?" dying in the air. In one case of particular multicultural zeal, a Son of the Caliphate, brandishing his scimitar, shouted "Death to the decadent spawn of a whoredog!" and sought to chop off the hand of an intersex marcher who, fortunately, managed to slip out of reach, although he later complained that his mauve PVC hot pants had been "ruined" by a scimitar cut. Councillor Rhiannon told council that the march and the tableau were scheduled for different venues and it was clear the programme had been sabotaged. "The festival was proceeding smoothly and harmoniously like the Costa Concordia before it hit the iceberg," he said, "when things started to go suspiciously wrong." He added he was convinced the Israeli secret service had an agent in the municipality's Festivals and Celebrations Unit and promised a "full investigation and if necessary a purge".

Council also agreed at last night's meeting to accept a recommendation from its Arts and Cultural Enrichment subcommittee that a bust of the late Kim Jong-il be added to the collection in the "Peacemakers' Walk" at the Botanic Gardens in Flannery Drive. The commission has been offered to Anouk Chagall (born Bronwen Pollard), artist-in-residence at Burchett Hill People's Creativity Powerhouse (as the municipal gallery is now known), who works principally in barbed wire and electrodes. Her portrait bust of the distinguished North Korean statesman will join a select group of international benefactors such as Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Enver Hohxa, Walter Ulbricht and Idi Amin already on display in the Peacemakers' Walk, which has been created on the site of the redundant King Edward VII Memorial Garden. Interestingly, the statue of the king by Sir Bertram Mackennal, removed from its plinth, is now in the People's Creativity Powerhouse where it is the centrepiece of the Kids' Republican Installation. Children and their parents are invited to "improve" the statue by adding their "visual comments" in the form of funny teeth, moustaches, spectacles etc in texta-colour and placing "found objects" such as fast-food containers on its head.

Council approved a motion to express "solidarity with our traduced Islamic friends" by inviting a muezzin from Burchett Hill mosque to use the tower of the Town Hall for calls to prayer "on a daily basis". As a further act of friendship the tower clock would be placed permanently on Mecca time. An application from St Andrew's Uniting church for a permit to extend its elderly citizens' centre with a "sympathetically designed extension containing disabled toilets and other much-needed facilities" was rejected on the grounds that in a multicultural and pluralist community adding to a building "intended for sectarian use" would amount to "provocation".

3 February 2012

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