Embracing cultural diversity, rejecting racism

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Harmony Day on 21 March is a celebration of cultural diversity and a call to action to push back against racism, wherever it occurs.

“Today marks the 51st anniversary of the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,” said Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane.

The UN established the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to commemorate the events of 21 March 1960, when police opened fire on a peaceful anti-apartheid demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, killing 69 people.

“Unfortunately, racism is not confined to history. Nor is it confined to somewhere else. The majority of Australians welcome multiculturalism and reject racism, but there’s still work to do to counter racism wherever it occurs,” Dr Soutphommasane said.

Dr Soutphommasane welcomed the Federal Government’s statement on multiculturalism, released on 20 March.

He said the Government statement, Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful, affirms the strength and success of Australia’s multiculturalism

“It is valuable to have an official statement about the meaning of multicultural Australia.

“While there is strong acceptance of multiculturalism, there is always a need to ensure that we maintain our social cohesion and harmony.

“Our debates about culture, identity and immigration must never undermine our national unity.

“Our society must continue to combat racism and intolerance. Laws such as the Racial Discrimination Act are essential to setting a standard on what is acceptable public conduct in Australia,” Dr Soutphommasane said.

The Australian Human Rights Commission developed Racism. It Stops With Me to encourage all Australians to reflect on what they can do to counter racism. The campaign includes tips on how to speak up against racism, along with videos and factsheets specifically designed for youth.

The Commission has also developed resources for teachers in early childhood settings to address racial prejudice and encourage respect and inclusion.

Building Belonging’ is a comprehensive toolkit of early education resources including an e-book, song with actions, educator guide, posters and lesson plans.

Photo: Multicultural SA, Flickr Creative Commons