By Avery Benbow
On the 21st of March (which will have already passed by the time this article comes out) Australia will be celebrating Harmony Day, a day that for Normo, means orange ribbons or celebrating music and food from diverse backgrounds. However, for Australia as a whole, it means promoting and celebrating cultural diversity within Australia. But what is this event which keeps getting brought up in emails and assemblies, and how can we work together to support it?
Firstly, the basics. What is Harmony Day? Founded in Australia in 1999, it is now a 24-year-old celebration on an international level for inclusion and cultural diversity. Though the diversity within any country, particularly such a multicultural one as Australia, should be celebrated, Harmony Day allows us to appreciate different circumstances and backgrounds, as well as how we can all live in harmony and belong together.
Originally established after a 1998 study into Australian racism commissioned by the Australian government revealed the need for higher levels of respect for all Australians, who have identified with over 300 different ethnicities and over 120 belief systems. This celebration aims to demonstrate how much diversity there is within Australia, and why it is essential to create a place of belonging for the entire community through inclusivity and respect.
As well as being home to diverse backgrounds from around the world, Australia is also home to the oldest living culture in the world, that of the Australian Indigenous people. The potential upcoming referendum for the Voice in Parliament is a prime example of how it is only through recognising and appreciating the diverse experiences within Australia and working to make things equitable, can Australia become “united by… values of freedom, respect, fairness, democracy and equal opportunity” (Crystal Nguyen).
But how can we work towards appreciating different cultures and backgrounds to build inclusivity in our school? It starts, above all else, with openness, willingness to learn, and of course, empathy and compassion. Because “how can we begin to move toward healing, trust or forgiveness without first compassion?” (Stan Grant, referring to the discussions surrounding the Voice). We need compassion to allow us to move towards the future by looking at each other and joining together to do so, but how?
It doesn’t need to be big; you can celebrate in any way you’d like to show your appreciation for the diversity of Australia. This could be wearing an orange ribbon, researching cultures besides your own, attending Jasmine Club or JPIC meetings, participating in Harmony Week activities or events at school or within your local community, or anything in between.
Overall, Harmony Day is a celebration of all the diversity which makes Australia the place it is, and it is an opportunity to grow our understanding and support for this community of belonging we hope to develop, which you can support in whatever way you like, even if it’s just within our school community. Click here to see how Loreto students feel welcomed in our community.
https://www.harmony.gov.au/ - See here for ways to get involved!