Lynne Brooke – Educational Leader Bright Futures Children’s Services

18 March 2019


As we prepare to celebrate Harmony Week from 17 – 21st March at Bright Futures Children’s Services, it is a perfect time to discuss what ‘multiculturalism’ really means for a migrant to Australia, and particularly how we can share these experiences with children. After living in the same town in England for almost 40 years of my life, then migrating to Australia, was it a culture shock? Absolutely!

Harmony Week coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the 21st March this year. It celebrates “inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, united by a set of core Australian values” and is the United Nations response to E. Tendayi Achiume, fifth Special Rapporteur’s Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics website shares the following facts about Australia’s diversity in their report ABS 2016 Census Data:

  • nearly half (49 per cent) of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was
  • we identify with over 300 ancestries
  • since 1945, more than 7.5 million people have migrated to Australia
  • 85 per cent of Australians agree multiculturalism has been good for Australia
  • apart from English, the most common languages spoken in Australia are Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Tagalog/Filipino, Hindi, Spanish and Punjabi
  • more than 70 Indigenous languages are spoken in Australia.

With so many diverse cultures and religious traditions in Australia, we often feel inadequate not knowing the why and how, if you are being ‘politically correct’ or showing

enough respect to ensure successful integration in our communities. So what can we do about it? Well, we can start with our children. We can role model to children about asking respectful questions to others. We can embrace different ways of doing things and celebrate that we are all individuals and all have something we can bring to our society.

As an educator, there are so many opportunities to explore culture through Quality Area 1 – Educational program and practice, not by being tokenistic by only celebrating events, but by talking to children about history, exploring customs and traditions. Through play based activities, dance and music, food and by exploring our diverse communities. Educate yourself, do not use stereotypical behaviour, expand your friendship circle, do something different, step outside of that comfort zone. Why? Well, migration will not be going away any time soon. So for us to be a happy nation, why would you not want to live in harmony with others?

 “Happiness is when, what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”