Multiculturalism, social cohesion, and inclusion are at the heart of this week’s celebration of Harmony Week. Australia has a rich history of multiculturalism that has helped shape our country into the vibrant and diverse society that it is today.
While modern Australia celebrates multiculturalism, this appreciation of our rich, diverse communities is a recent advent. Up until the 1960s, Australia sought to achieve a homogenous culture through assimilation policies.
This was particularly devastating for First Nations communities, who lost culture, identity and connection to country through forced assimilation. These policies also affected new migrants and refugees – who were forced to abandon their culture in order to try to belong in their new home.
This treatment has had lasting effects on individuals and communities, which we must continue to acknowledge, even while celebrating the progress we have made towards creating a more cohesive, diverse nation.
There is still much work to be done to achieve true inclusion and appreciation for all cultures, but it is with the benefit of hindsight – and in reflecting on our nation’s complex history – that we can understand and appreciate the true value of celebrations like Harmony Week. This is doubly so in light of Harmony Week’s origin as a local celebration aligned with International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
By embracing our diversity and fostering understanding and respect between cultures, we can create a society where everyone feels valued and respected.
At SSI, we work every day to support migrants and refugees in settling into their new lives in Australia. We know firsthand the challenges that newcomers face, and we are committed to helping them integrate into our society and feel a sense of belonging.
But we cannot do this alone. It takes a collective effort to create a society where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their background. We must all work together to build a community where diversity is celebrated, and differences are seen as strengths, not weaknesses.
This Harmony Week, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the importance of multiculturalism and the role we each play in creating a harmonious and inclusive society. Together, we can commit to working collaboratively to create a future where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their full potential.