Harmony Day is celebrated throughout Australia on 21 March. It has become a significant day of the year when Australians are encouraged to celebrate the cultural diversity of our country.
21 March is also the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
We even have a government agency dealing with cultural, racial and religious intolerance, by promoting respect, fairness and a sense of belonging for everyone.
Orange is the colour chosen to represent Harmony Day. Australians are encouraged to wear orange clothing and/or the distinctive orange ribbon to show their support for cultural diversity and an inclusive Australia.
I imagine our politicians have a drawerful of colourful ribbons and need advisors to remind them which one to wear!
However, considering our two major parties have shown a shocking disregard for the plight of refugees still stuck in offshore detention perhaps they should refrain from being hypocritical today and leave the orange ribbon in the drawer.
“I struggle with Australia’s record towards refugees. Australia is a nation of migrants and its culture accepts and tolerates difference. But Australia’s refugee record is quite poor internationally. This is a very bad position for a state because people judge states on their acceptance and tolerance of people who need help.
There is no excuse for any kind of policy which does not consider or protect very basic human rights.”
Operation Sovereign Borders
(a found poem from Refugee Week leaflet)
Refugees and asylum seekers
a new life
cross stormy waters
and a welcome
from Australian society ––
young and old.
Amazing personal stories
Prisoners of conscience
from Afghanistan and Burma
seeking to celebrate and contribute.
Their hopes crushed
basic human rights violated
harsh lessons in cruelty
as the innocent
are locked up.
on Nauru and Manus Islands
detention not freedom ––
We can do better
Stand up, Speak up
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
The trees cling to fragile foliage
like mothers reluctant to let
their children go.
The winter sun radiates
white light promising a day
of autumn glory…
It is Melbourne after all.
A blue sky pockmarked by fluffy clouds
reflecting a sea of shimmering blue
But beyond the benign bay
fear and desperation meets
fear and distrust.
No need of Siren’s song
to lure the mariners to their death.
The monster from the deep is
dressed in political spin and
Christian charity in short supply.
To seek asylum deemed illegal
It is Australia after all.
A World of Bubbles
Sometimes the weight of sadness
crushes and destroys,
a cement mixer churning wails and tears
of the downtrodden –
the enslaved, imprisoned, tortured,
refugees and homeless…
a tsunami of pain
a relentless darkness
a night without dawn.
‘I want to help, but what can I do?’
A plea from compassionate people
whose words may become actions –
the cliched ‘drop in the ocean’.
Causes close to home a priority –
employees need to work,
sick friends visited.
Joy sought in rituals
for normality’s sake.
Cocooned in bubbles we float
to survive turmoil we can’t control,
to escape the weight of crushing sadness.
Our bubbles must stay intact,
a prism of sunlight
not a prison of insensitivity.
Perhaps kiss other bubbles…
to share light and love,
to ease global sadness
resilient like a mother’s womb.
Earth is as diverse as the planets in the universe. For most of us, each day is not a new adventure but the ‘same old same old’ unless we make an effort to move out of our comfort zone.
Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.
That comfort zone may involve embracing different cultures, envisaging a different Australia to the one we are used to, learning to accept, not just tolerate – welcome others to country as the Aborigines continually welcome people to country.
Haiku – Mairi Neil
Ningla a-Na! This our land
Indigenous and immigrant
Now sharing history
Acrostic – Mairi Neil
Healing words soothe
A heartfelt hug or sincere smile
Receptive, not racist
Multicultural vibrancy Australia’s style
Outsiders no more
Not only tolerance but acceptance
You are welcome – We are enriched
Seeking asylum is not a crime.