Recently arrived refugees and asylum seekers from around the world came together with community members for a Harmony Day celebration held by Settlement Services International (SSI).
A crowd of almost 500, made up of SSI clients, staff and special guests – including Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee, State Labor candidate for Parramatta, Councillor James Shaw, State Labor Candidate for Granville, Councillor Julia Finn and representatives from Australian Relief Organisation and the Cultural Performing Arts Network – gathered in Parramatta Park to celebrate cultural diversity.
"Harmony Day is about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. These are also SSI’s values,” said SSI CEO, Violet Roumeliotis.
“What we are celebrating today is diversity in action, as well as highlighting the valuable contribution that it makes to the broad Australian community.
“Last year SSI supported almost 12,000 refugees, humanitarian entrants and asylum seeker clients – all of whom live in the community. They come from a variety of countries, including Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Iran, Tibet, Autonomous Region of China and Sri Lanka.
“They bring with them a wealth of experience, knowledge and talent. In their home countries they were teachers, professors, musicians, artists, IT professionals, engineers, business people and trades people. What a valuable contribution they and their children are already making to our country.”
One former refugee making such a contribution is Indran Ratnam, who now runs Diaspora Connect, a not-for-profit organisation that, among other things, provides Tamil cuisine for festivals and events, including SSI’s Harmony Day event, in turn providing employment opportunities for Tamil refugees.
Diaspora Connect was established with the help of Ignite Small Business Start-ups, an SSI initiative that assists refugees to set up small businesses.
Other refugees who contributed to the day were members of an Assyrian traditional drumming and dance group, who performed two encores and encouraged many members of the audience to join them on the dance floor.
SSI client Mostafa, a Kurd, loved joining in the dancing. “The dancing was very similar to Kurdish dancing. I liked seeing the different types of traditional dances from around the world and also trying the Ethiopian coffee. It is a very good day."