Harmony Day celebrations about “learning to respect each other”

Students of UOW

Students of UOW

Thousands of people across Australia, including hundreds of new  students at the University of Wollongong, will gather on Friday to celebrate multiculturalism at annual Harmony Day events.

Established in 1999, Harmony Day is a federal government program that celebrates Australian multiculturalism, from Indigenous Australians to the more than 200 different nationalities represented in the country.

Mohan Gunasekara, executive manager at Illawarra Multicultural Services (IMS), says that groups around the Illawarra will be celebrating with cultural events like dinners and dances. IMS will host soccer games on Saturday.

Mr Gunasekara said that Harmony Day is a chance for Australians from many cultures to come together and celebrate diversity. “Harmony Day is also an opportunity to designate that everyone belongs in this land.”

“I think it’s an opportunity… to learn from each other, to learn to respect each other,” he said.

Mr Gunasekara said that there are still challenges that face new migrants and refugees to Australia, especially employment and mastering English. “Refugees are entitled to English classes at the TAFE, and that is good, but IMS is trying to get a one-to-one program so that their conversational skills improve, and their employment prospects improve also,” he said.

Other events in the region include the City of Wollongong’s ‘Welcome to Wollongong’ event at UOW on Friday. Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbury and local MPs will welcome new arrivals to the city, alongside a festival with free entertainment and international cuisine.

Workers in thousands of workplace lunchrooms will also share food and their stories. ‘A Taste of Harmony’ is encouraging businesses and community groups to organise their own celebrations in order to break down cultural barriers in the workplace.

Established six years ago, last year over 3,500 workplaces participated, and organisers are aiming for 5,000 in 2014.

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Australian universities are multicultural in nature. International students, domestic students and exchange students all play a part in this rich multicultural environment. Through these photos we explore the nature of multiculturalism through the diverse range of food we share and consume at the University of Wollongong.

As we lead up to Harmony Day on March 21, these images begin to represent a day where we all can celebrate our diversity and be proud of our multiculturalism.

It is reported that at least 30% of students leave University in their first year due to not finding a social group. This Friday, the University of Wollongong will be holding a ‘Welcome to Wollongong’ event to counter this trend and help out the new students.

Audio: Jared Constable

Video: Ben Mitchell

Words: Andre Charadia

Photo: Elliot Reeves