Celebrating respect and acceptance for all who call Australia home.
On 21 March, Australia celebrates Harmony Day. It’s a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home — from the traditional owners of this land to those who have come here from around the world.
Harmony Day is about diversity, inclusiveness, respect and a sense of acceptance and belonging for everyone, from our communities, schools and workplaces to our sporting teams, cultural expressions and governments. The day aims to be a catalyst for constructive conversations around heritage, culture and community.
The United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is also observed annually on 21 March.
Orange is the colour of choice for Harmony Day as, traditionally, orange signifies social communication and meaningful conversations. It also relates to the freedom of ideas and encouragement of mutual respect.
In Australia, we identify with approximately 300 ancestries, while 49 per cent of us were either born overseas or have a parent who was. More than seven million people have migrated to Australia since 1945 and 21 per cent of us speak a language other than English at home.
Around Australia, The Salvation Army’s Diversity and Inclusion Team works to enable inclusive culture and practice across all Salvo churches and centres.
“We know that Australia is one of the world’s most culturally diverse nations and so, for us, the focus is how do we best help The Salvation Army here be the most effective it can be in engaging in a multicultural context,” says Adrian Kistan, the Salvos’ General Manager of Mission Inclusion.
“This is not about having multicultural outreach programs but being reflective and connected with the cultural diversity that exists in our community. We can demonstrate that we can all come together and truly reflect unity in diversity through Jesus.”
Many Salvation Army churches around the country will celebrate Harmony Day with their own events, or join in local community activities. They will also acknowledge other days throughout the year and continue to work together with different groups in their communities.
In Hobsons Bay (Vic.) the Salvos, honouring the 1940 call by Aboriginal activist William Cooper, acknowledge the Sunday before 26 January as Aboriginal Sunday. This is a day for the Australian Church to act in solidarity with Aboriginal peoples.
“Our church acknowledged this day because we take God’s call to justice very seriously,” says Star Conliffe, leader of The Salvation Army in Hobsons Bay. “Justice starts with acknowledging our own privilege and how we have benefited from our shared history with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is why we use one day in a year to remember and mourn what has happened, and acknowledge that the land we worship on was entrusted to Aboriginal custodians.
“We also mark Refugee Week and hear stories from people in our church community who have fled for their lives to Australia, and discuss actions we can take towards justice.”
In Wodonga, on the Victorian border with New South Wales, the Salvos have opened a space for new arrivals, who are mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also from Rwanda and Burundi.
“We are sharing meals together, culturally learning from each other, adding to community and sharing the love of Jesus,” says Christine Abram, leader of The Salvation Army in Wodonga. “The Congolese church that meets in our building has also asked me to be their pastor.
“We assist with English classes, help older teenagers and adults get their hours up in driving practice so they can get their licences, work with another organisation [Prudent Women] to meet with widows and orphans, and support their beautiful choir.”
For more information on Harmony Day, visit harmony.gov.au