Hundreds of SSI staff, clients, volunteers and friends gathered on March 22 at Auburn Centre for Community to celebrate Australia’s vibrant and multicultural society with a joint Harmony Day and Nowruz event.
SSI staff, clients and friends elebrateda Harmony Day and Nowruz
SSI’s combined celebration highlighted the value and respect for all cultures that enrich the Australian community and make it one of the most diverse countries in the world. This positive conception of diversity is a core part of SSI’s values and was also reflected in this year’s Harmony Day theme – ‘Everyone Belongs’.
Nowruz, also known as the Iranian New Year, is a festivity observed by 14 ethno-religious groups living in the areas of Iran, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan, among several others. It traditionally marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and it symbolises the new beginnings that come with the New Year.
“I remember how exciting Nowruz was for us as kids in Iran,” SSI Case Manager, Intake, Shoreh Lawless said.
“Everything started a few weeks before with cleaning, scrubbing and washing every corner of the house. We would even buy new clothes and underwear, everything had to be new to symbolise a true fresh start to the year.”
But the renewal didn’t’ only affect the superficial aspects of life. Nowruz also involved getting past all the hatred and troubles you had the previous year and leave them in the past, Ms Lawless said.
Chair of SSI's Board Elisabeth Shaw said it was fortuitous that this celebration of new beginnings coincided with the same day that Australians gather to show their commitment to a country where everyone belongs.
“Today’s celebration epitomises the true spirit of Harmony Day, which coincides with SSI’s vision and goals of achieving a society where diversity is valued and respected”, she said.
“We’re aware that many of the people here today have escaped dangerous situations and came to our shores seeking safety. I’d like them to know that they belong here now and this is their new beginning like the Nowruz we are celebrating today.”
Besides a strong Persian component that included music performances, dancing and food, the dual Nowruz/Harmony Day celebration also highlighted many other cultures that make up the SSI community.
The event opened up with an engaging Welcome to Country ceremony by Darug woman Jacinta Tobin, who spoke about the main issues currently affecting the Aboriginal community and taught attendees the meaning of some popular Aboriginal names of places in Sydney, such as Coogee or Parramatta.
The celebration also featured talented Iranian dancer Azadeh, who invited everyone to join her on stage and follow the rhythm despite the sudden scorching afternoon. Other music performances followed until volunteers called for lunch to be served and everyone rushed to enjoy a delicious traditional Persian meal.