Hepburn Shire Deputy Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt, attended the Macedon Ranges their first multicultural celebration in Woodend as part of Harmony Week.

The UN acknowledge the 21st March as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day commemorates the date in 1960 when police in South Africa opened fire on a peaceful demonstration against apartheid laws in Sharpeville, killing 69 people.

In Australia we celebrate this day as Harmony Day, part of Harmony Week. Harmony Week celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity and promotes inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all. People wear orange to show support for cultural diversity and attend a range of multicultural events to celebrate the contribution people of diverse backgrounds have made and continue to make to Australian society.

Macedon Ranges Cr Jennifer Anderson noted that while the Council was unable to celebrate every designated day, they wanted to be a welcoming, culturally diverse place.

Four local citizens from the Philippines, the Sudan and India shared their personal stories of the challenges and achievements of their lives in regional Victoria. Brigid Arthur, a well-known refugee advocate and co-founder of the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project then talked about the difficulties asylum seekers are currently facing in Australia.

Participants spoke about their arrival experiences, their difficulties with language and different cultural traditions, bringing up bi-cultural children and experiences of racism. They spoke about their experiences of racism in regional Victoria and the impact it had creating fear and limiting opportunities.

The celebration in Woodend facilitated dialogue, providing an opportunity to listen and to understand people’s experiences. Fabulous food from the Philippines, India and the Sudan was a bonus for participants.

The 2021 Australian Census shows 79.4% of Hepburn Shire residents were born in Australia compares to 66.9% for the Australian population. One percent indicated that they were Indigenous compared to 3.2% for the Australian population.

Harmony week is an opportunity to reflect on what we can do to make our community a place where people are able to be Australian citizen and at the same time celebrate their cultural background. It’s also a time to enjoy some fabulous food!