I love Quora. It’s a simple app from where the least endowed of us can obtain wisdom. At no cost. As I picked up my phone this morning, the question on Quora was “Which is better, Canadian or Australian Citizenship”? The answers to this question, focussed on life expectancy, cost of living, economy and of course, racial harmony. It was on the latter that Australia trails Canada, according to one of the writers. I was still thinking about this when I saw a post on facebook relating to racial discrimination. I couldn’t held myself from commenting and so I joined the conversation.
Australia is a culturally diverse country, it owes this to the history of how the island state came to be. Being a penal colony, it became home to people of different creed and shapes from England and as it matures, came to represent the land of freedom for many. Australia takes diversity and cultural inclusion seriously. To demonstrate it, it has set aside the 21st of March every year as harmony day. In fact, it has a website devoted to this available here.
Harmony Day is a celebration of cultural diversity – a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home. The message of Harmony Day is ‘everyone belongs’, the Day aims to engage people to participate in their community, respect cultural and religious diversity and foster sense of belonging for everyone. Since 1999, more than 70,000 Harmony Day events have been held in childcare centres, schools, community groups, churches, businesses and federal, state and local government agencies across Australia.
Mirrabooka is a suburb of Perth with a large presence of immigrant population. I refer to this suburb as “little Sudan”. Everywhere you go, you are not far from a person that has his ancestry from Sudan. So it was a pleasurable choice to have this suburb hosting the Harmony Day for 2017. By the time we showed up at the event, the sprawling car park was fully taken up and we had to pack some distance away.
Entering the hall, we were pleased to see an African Dance Troupe performing for the audience. The sight of the Ghanian Drums, wrapped in Kente clothes. The beating of the drums was irresistible and I couldn’t stop myself from saying my body to its rhythm. Across the hall were various stands promoting services to support racial inclusion in the society. I spent some time at the Islamic stand where I was attended to by a teenage lady all wrapped up in black with a black hijab. She was extremely polite. Displayed at the stand was a free offer to have one’s name written in Arabic. I told her my name and she wrote this on a piece of paper in Arabic. Thereafter, I requested her to tell me the meaning of my surname in Arabic. She struggled a bit with this and called another younger lady to help. Try as they did, all I could be told was that it was the nickname of the first Caliph of Islam, a friend of the prophet. I wanted more. I have been told that it meant “noble promise” but unfortunately my search for the meaning continues on another day.
At another stand, I was invited to enter a competition on diversity by answering a simple question. It was the stand of the Equal Opportunity Commission, an outfit of the Government of Western Australia. The question seems simple but deserves a lot of thought. It stated “Why do we have laws protecting us from discrimination and harassment”? I was given a whole sheet to answer but with the option of making my answer as short or lengthy as I chose. I simply wrote “Our diversity is strength. Without laws, the strength in our diversity will thrive as weakness. Laws help to promote the best in our individuality and thus help to shape society better collectively”. That was the best answer I could give, impromptu. Some folks probably would have done better.
The police stand and its officers were delightsome. We had two (2) officers dressed in a highland dress – a combination of the Western Australian police uniform and a kilt. Also, on hand and portraying that the Police is part of the society was a lady officer dressed in the police uniform with a black hijab and matching black trouser. Outside was a police van and the officers were taken families to explore this.
Somewhere in the crowd, I caught a glimpse of the Mayor of the city of Stirling, Councillor Giovanni Italiano JP. I don’t know how old he is but I have been told that he has lived within the Osborne ward of the council for more than 60 years! That alone deserves some respect as it shows stability. I approached him and wanted to know about the council’s efforts towards promoting diversity and cultural inclusion in the city. He pointed out the current event at Mirrabooka and would introduce me to an officer of the council with direct responsibility for this.
As I left the event, my belief in Australia as a race tolerant country increased. It is the diversity of the people that makes Australia a great place to live.