United in Harmony

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United in Harmony

Brooke Couper, Reporter

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Australia is an energetic, multicultural country. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission it is home to “Australians who identify with more than 270 ancestries.” And that, the organisers of Harmony Day claim, is a reason to celebrate.

Harmony Day turned 20 this year, having been established in 1999. Since 2003, WA has stretched the celebration over an entire week. In 2019 Harmony Week ran from March 15-21.

The date, 21 March,  was chosen for Harmony Day because it is the same day as the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and also the date of the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, that saw police firing on a peaceful demonstration against apartheid in South Africa, killing 69 unarmed protesters.

WA Citizenship and Multicultural Interests Minister, Paul Papalia, said: “Harmony Week is a chance to reflect on how much this State has benefited from multiculturalism, and then to get out into the community to celebrate that contribution with other Western Australians.”

According to the Harmony Week website, “Australia is one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world and we should celebrate this and work to maintain it.”

The site states that 49% of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was.

Harmony Week gives an opportunity for Australians to explore, experience and appreciate cultural, faith, linguistic and ethnic diversity as well as the benefits they provide.

It is also a chance to reflect on the progress that has been made in stamping out discrimination. In 1975, the Racial Discrimination Act was implemented, making discrimination in different parts of public life against the law, and in 1995, the Act was extended to make public acts of racial hatred against the law.

In WA there were multiple events celebrating Harmony Week.

In Armadale, there was the Headspace Paints for Harmony event where locals were able to go and participate in painting a community art mural with the team from the Headspace youth mental health support organisation.

The City of Stirling successfully won the Guinness World Record for most nationalities in a drum circle after an event on 15 March in the Mirrabooka Town Square.

Also, Perth landmarks including Parliament House, the Bell Tower, Elizabeth Quay Bridge, and Yagan square were bathed in orange light, the colour representing Harmony Week. According to the Harmony Week website, orange was chosen because it traditionally signifies social communication and meaningful conversations and relates to the freedom of ideas and encouragement of mutual respect.

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