Harmony Week is all about celebrating the amazing cultures that make up our country. Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world – from the oldest continuous culture of our First Australians to the 49% of Australians who were born overseas or have a parent who was.
Our cultural diversity is a great strength and brings with it a whole host of traditions, religions, languages and, of course, food! It helps us to have choices in how we do things, reduces discrimination and lets us accept our differences. Despite this, being anything other than Anglo can sometimes be challenging in Australia. It can feel like there’s nobody else like you, and people’s lack of understanding can sometimes lead to conflict.
Harmony Week helps us to focus on the positive things about cultural diversity and to support each other in countering the negative things. It creates a sense of belonging for all Australians.
You might know this event as 'Harmony Day' – it's been renamed 'Harmony Week' to recognise the diversity and inclusion activities that take place during the week e.g. at schools and workplaces. Harmony Week includes March 21, which is the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Here are some ways you can celebrate and connect with your family.
Share a meal
Plan a family Harmony Week meal. If there’s one thing that brings people together, it’s food! Here are some ideas for making it meaningful:
- Choose some old family recipes to cook.
- Share stories about food from when you were a teenager.
- Involve the whole family in preparing the meal.
- Have each family member choose a dish to prepare. Then, when you sit down to eat, they can share why they chose it!
It's important to make your event as COVID-safe as possible. Serve your food in individual portions, and make sure that you aren’t using common platters or sharing utensils.
Check out local community events
There’s plenty happening around Harmony Week, so check if there’s an event in your local area. The folks who organise Harmony Week have made a handy calendar. Make a family day of it, or encourage your kids to go along with their friends.
Share your story
It can be really powerful to hear other people’s stories. Realising that somebody else has felt the same way as you, or has made the same mistakes, helps you feel less alone. Sit down with the family and share what it was like for you growing up. Encourage your teenager to ask you questions, and try to be as real as possible with them in your answers, even if there’s some things that aren’t so nice. Harmony Week is a great chance to have an open conversation about race and diversity with your family.
Finding the conversation a little tricky? Hear from psychologist Clare Rowe on communicating effectively with your teenager.
Hearing or seeing your native (or second) language can be really comforting. Set some time aside with the family for something from this list:
- Many local community radio stations have culture-based shows. SBS Radio has shows in 68 different languages PLUS some awesome music shows like PopAraby, PopDesi and PopAsia.
- You can hit up SBS again for some awesome foreign-language films. Check out Palace or Dendy cinemas if you want to get out of the house to watch something; or even go old school and borrow a free DVD from your local library. Oh, and of course, there’s always Netflix!
- All bookshops and libraries have foreign-language sections. If it’s been a while since your teenager has read something in their first language, you could offer to help them – bonding time and culture all wrapped up in one!
Reconnect with the people you miss
It can be hard living apart from loved ones, especially if they’re in another country. It’s just as important for parents to have people in their life they can debrief and vent with as it is for young people. It can actually help you be a better parent!
And while you can have the best of intentions, having to juggle all of your commitments plus time zone differences means staying in touch can be tricky. Use Harmony Week as a chance to prioritise a Skype session – technology means your friends and family are only a click away.
Reconnect with the places you miss
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, put some time aside to spend on country with your teenagers. If this is something that you do regularly, you’ll probably already have a good idea of what works for you. If spending time on country is a little harder or unfamiliar, you could ask an Auntie, Uncle, Elder or friend to welcome you onto their land and learn about their traditions and practices. This sort of reconnection with land can be healing and beneficial for your wellbeing.
For others, think about visiting a favourite restaurant, or park or a friend’s house that reminds you of your culture. If you’re in a major city, you could even head to a cultural enclave – just google your city and the culture, and you’ll be able to find the locations. For instance, in Sydney you’ll find a large Vietnamese population in Cabramatta; in Brisbane, Sunnybank is where you go for Chinese culture; and in Melbourne, Dandenong is the home of the Indian community.
Feeling a sense of belonging is really important in making you feel good. You can play a major role in making sure your teen feels like they have a place in this world. Taking the time to connect with and share your culture with your teenager will go a long way in helping them feel like they’re not alone.