Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells celebrates Harmony Day 2014
Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services, is leading this year’s Government Harmony Day Celebrations.
March 21 is celebrated around the world as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Since 1999, it has also been the day on which Australians celebrate Harmony Day – our national recognition of cultural diversity.
Australia’s cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths and is at the heart of who we are. More than a quarter of the Australian population was born overseas and one in five Australians has at least one parent born overseas. We identify with around 300 ancestries and speak as many languages.
Harmony Day is a celebration of this incredible diversity.
As the daughter of migrants myself, I understand that Australia’s cultural diversity is a source of great social and economic strength, building our productivity and enriching our lives. I have seen first-hand that the opportunities provided to migrants were met with commitment, effort and determination.
This country has given so much to my family. My father came here from Italy in 1953. He left behind everything he knew and loved and came here for a better life. He worked in the Queensland cane fields before moving to Port Kembla. My mother joined him in 1959. I was born one year later, followed by my brother. On my first day in kindergarten there were 75 kids in the class. Only three spoke English, I wasn’t one of them. Within three months we were almost fluent in English. We were connected to each other, this small group of students, and to the wider community. I remember being asked to translate and do other tasks to help people in their daily lives.
Migrants like my family built new lives in our country and in doing so, helped shape the Australia we have today. We now enjoy one of the most prosperous and socially cohesive nations on Earth.
Harmony Day is a time to come together to celebrate what we have achieved and to focus on how far we have to go. It is all about encouraging people to participate in their community, respect cultural and religious diversity and foster a sense of belonging for everyone.
Since 1999 there have been around 55,000 events celebrated in in childcare centres, schools, community groups, churches, businesses and federal, state and local government agencies across Australia.
I invite all Australians to take part in a Harmony Day event this year, and wear something orange on 21 March to show your support for cultural diversity and an inclusive Australia. When you participate in Harmony Day, you’re helping to make mutual respect and inclusiveness part of our country’s DNA. A list of events, which can be searched by location, is available under the Get Involved tab on our website.
This year, we have comprehensively broken the previous record of 4,900 events, with more than 6,500 registered so far, right across the country.
For almost 15 years, Harmony Day has shared the message that ‘Everyone Belongs’ – from the traditional owners of this land, to those who have come here from many countries around the world.
This year we are using Harmony Day to start a conversation about what belonging reallymeans to you, your family, friends and community. To me, belonging is what makes you want to be a part of something greater than yourself, but I want to know what all Australians, especially young people, feel that it means.
There are a number of ways for you to share your views. Please go to our website or access the Harmony Day Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to join the conversation, and use the hashtags #HarmonyDay or #everyonebelongs