Harmony Day is a celebration of cultural diversity and belonging. More importantly, it is a reminder that people of all cultures, religions and ethnicities should be valued and celebrated – and not just on this day. Respect and understanding are vital to taking the steps towards valuing and celebrating diverse peoples.
Connections are the very fabric of daily human life. I think COVID-19 has emphasised the interconnectedness of the world we live in! We have so many opportunities to interact with each other in so many ways more than ever now. Genuine connection is when individuals feel seen, heard and valued. This kind of connection takes courage. The courage to put aside ourselves, and our pre-conceptions, prejudices, superstitions, presumptions, hasty judgments and the familiar stereotypes we might cling to because they are comfortable and easy.
We need to have the courage to put aside – if even just for a short while – our priorities and day-to-day routines to fittingly mark special days like Harmony Day. Harmony Day is an uplifting day, reminding us of the vibrant multicultural communities in which we live. To celebrate, we come together to create a feeling of community, to share in our belonging and to ensure the people surrounding us feel included and valued.
Harmony Day gives us an opportunity to embrace our curiosity and connect with others who may have a culture, language or religion which is different to our own. This is actually a simple task.
It is important that we celebrate our achievements and reinforce positive messages of ‘Everyone Belongs’. But it is just as vital that on days like Harmony Day we acknowledge that racism and associated prejudices, for example against people seeking asylum and against people of other faiths and linguistic backgrounds, still exist in Australia and consider how we can address these.
Anti-Asian attacks and hate crimes have been on the rise worldwide. The Black Lives Matter movement has arisen in the United States and here in Australia following the deaths of African Americans and our own First Nations peoples in custody.
Amidst the racism we have also seen the birth of a kindness pandemic right here in Australia, with people from all walks of life working together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support those most vulnerable to the virus.
Please let us be inspired and proactive, as it is up to all of us to fight against racism and create safe communities for everyone. We have a moral responsibility to continue to create a culture where diversity is celebrated and to commit to continuous learning. We can be the world’s leaders in putting human rights principles into practices.
Let us recognise that we are all connected and that it is through our diversity and our shared values of courage, compassion and a fair-go for all that make us Australians.