Harmony Week: Why it matters to belong


Harmony Week: Why it matters to belong

Primary schools nationwide will be a sea of colour this week to mark Harmony Week. But the message behind the celebrations isn’t just for kids. It’s actually one for all of us.

Students will either wear orange, the official Harmony Week colour, or they might don the colours of a flag meaningful to them. While doing so, they will gain an understanding of just how culturally diverse Australia is.

They will also learn why it matters so much to have a sense of belonging – something which is deeply important to everyone.

What is Harmony Week?

Australia is richly and wonderfully culturally diverse. Our population is a tapestry of ethnicities, languages and cultural backgrounds.

Over half of Australians were born overseas, or have at least one parent who was born overseas. What’s more, there are many languages spoken within the homes and communities of our society, including numerous First Nation’s dialects.

While Harmony Week (March 18 – 24) is about an appreciation for all the ways in which we are enriched by cultural diversity, it is also about something that’s very important on a human level.

Why it matters to belong

The Harmony Week slogan is ‘Everyone belongs’. But what does it actually mean to belong?

When we are accepted and included – and this goes for all people, regardless of race, culture, religion, age, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation – we feel more comfortable and at peace within ourselves. We also feel at ease within our communities, schools and workplaces because we are respected for how we are and are a part of things. We belong.

A sense of belonging is something those living with disability, particularly those from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds need to not only feel, but know.

As May, who lives with mobility impairment and has Chinese heritage, says:

“I use a walking stick. I had a big operation on my spinal cord a long time ago. I had a tumour. There were problems,” May explains, saying she needs to use lifts when at the shops and out and about now. She struggles with stairs and finds she’s not always able to get places easily because of this.

“I like it when people are nice to me. Most don’t mind that I walk differently and have an accent. Yes, I feel I belong here, and most of the time, I do” she adds.

Most of the time, but not all the time.

Inclusiveness isn’t just about signage in different languages or having access to interpreters in hospitals, accessibility or even ‘autism quiet hour’ in shops. It’s about the community at large becoming more aware of all kinds of differences, and being more accepting and accommodating of this.

Interestingly, Harmony Day on 21 March is also International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The Harmony Week message, “Everyone belongs” is therefore an important one – for everyone.

How can you take part?

Harmony Week community events are held all across the country in community centres, schools, churches, libraries and more. People are invited to wear orange to mark the occasion.

You can find out if there is an event happening near you by visiting the events page on the Harmony Week website (and scrolling down to your state).

If you are interested in attending one, you can book a Mable Independent Support Worker to enable you to participate.

You can also find a support worker who has a shared cultural background to you. Having a shared cultural background with your support worker where you can communicate in your preferred language, cook traditional food together, and share the same cultural customs could be a lovely thing for you (find out how you can build your support team by finding like-minded support workers).

Either way, Mable is here to support you to fully participate in society how you wish. Afterall, everyone belongs.

Happy Harmony Week!