From bananas to biryani: the creation of Woolgoolga Curryfest as an expression of community
Milner, L & Hughes, M 2012, 'From bananas to biryani: the creation of Woolgoolga Curryfest as an expression of community', Locale, vol. 2, pp. 119-139.
Since the 1940s, a Punjabi Sikh subculture has been a part of the community of Woolgoolga, just north of Coffs Harbour in northern coastal New South Wales (NSW). This began with their relocation to Woolgoolga to farm bananas. Today the area boasts the largest regional Sikh settlement in Australia, and although banana farming continues to be an important aspect of Sikh life, these original families and other newcomers have diversified and branched out into other aspects of community existence. In an area with a growing regional population and an economy largely centred on food production, services and tourism, the ‘regional festival culture’ has been embraced as a way to reflect and create notions of community, as well as attract interest from visitors drawn to the multicultural township. This article considers the festival as not only a case study in the expansion of regional food cultures, but also identifies Curryfest as a conduit for the promotion of Woolgoolga as a unique and diverse community. It is important to note that definitions of ‘community’ will always be contested, as will issues over who has the right to represent a particular community. Understandings of multiculturalism can also be visited here but we suggest that it is important not to dismiss the official project of multiculturalism in Australia as being superficial and of limited value. The social significance of food demands that any exchange of culinary practices should in fact be given recognition as an important and potentially powerful social force.