It’s our inclusivity that makes Palmy awesome

Rachel Bowen is a Palmerston North city councillor.





I was asked last week to reflect on what makes our city special. Not great, or interesting, or the thing I’m most proud of, but special, different from other destinations in Aotearoa, unique. There were lots of ideas in the room — city councillors generally being the most enthusiastic ambassadors for our city — and we talked about our great location and fantastic facilities and amenities. But as I reflected on the question, I was reminded of a couple of community groups I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with recently, and that helped me form a response. The new Palmerston North Multicultural Youth Council is a group of young people who have organised themselves into the latest community group in the city. They work closely with the Manawatu¯ Multicultural Council with some event funding provided by Palmerston North City Council. With 38 young people on the council, ranging from 13 to 21, they come from 19 ethnicities with plans to host events, celebrate diversity and provide education and support. By contrast, MaLGRA (Manawatu¯ Lesbian and Gay Rights Association) is New Zealand’s longest-running LGBT association and has been running, fighting, and pushing for change and acceptance in our city, and across the motu, since 1977. MaLGRA provides a social service that affirms and empowers its members and their family/wha¯ nau and significant others. It actively promotes the development of a safer social environment for our multicultural communities. So, for me, the thing that makes Palmerston North special is our diversity and inclusivity, and how we express that in community life. On an international scale Palmerston North is a town, and not even a big one. But we are a community that has a proud history of making space for people to own and fully express their identity. For me, that’s the heart of our small-city benefits, big-city ambition vision for the city. This is a place where you can be connected and safe, and where our worldview allows space for, and embraces expression. This takes us from our awardwinning annual flagship event Festival of Cultures, when thousands of people pack Te Marae o Hine/The Square to celebrate and experience the diverse cultures of our city, to our new Palmy Drag Fest. It will be a national celebration of drag culture with participants and attendees packing out our most traditional venue, Regent on Broadway, for a joyful celebration of diversity of expression. You can get involved with both these events. Festival of Cultures is asking for community input on its planning for 2023 (contact, and tickets for Palmy Drag Fest in September are on sale now, online or from the Regent. Rachel Bowen