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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2454

Harmony Day


Senator FURNER (Queensland) (14:59): My question is to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Lundy, and I congratulate her on a very successful Harmony Day event this morning. Can the minister inform the Senate about Harmony Day?


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (15:00): Harmony Day is celebrated around Australia every year on 21 March. It is a day to celebrate our cultural diversity, and its overriding message is 'Everyone belongs'. It is a uniquely Australian day and it builds on international recognition of the need to promote inclusion. Harmony Day marks the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and I am proud to represent a government committed not only to eliminating discrimination but also to the promotion of a truly inclusive society.

Today hundreds of thousands of Australians will show their support for cultural diversity in Australia. At some 4,300 Harmony Day events around our childcare centres, our schools, our sports groups, our arts organisations, our community groups, our churches, our businesses, and our federal, state and local government agencies and councils throughout Australia, we will be celebrating. Businesses in particular will celebrate through the Scanlon Foundation's Taste of Harmony, a campaign that was built around Harmony Day with workplaces across Australia celebrating over their favourite meals. I want to thank all the participants on all sides of politics for their attendance at our morning tea at our workplace here in Parliament House this morning. I thank the Ottoman Cuisine restaurant and the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Service of the ACT for their involvement in our event this morning. Last year more than 175,000 Australians experienced the joy of sharing food and stories from their backgrounds through the Taste of Harmony program. As I said, this year we had an opportunity to as well.

Harmony Day is a day where we can all, through activities and celebrations, learn about our cultural diversity, where our neighbours and friends have come from and what their background experiences have been. (Time expired)


Senator FURNER (Queensland) (15:02): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister update the Senate on the implementation of the People of Australia, the Australian government's multicultural policy?


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (15:02): Multiculturalism is about ensuring that everyone has a chance to participate in this great country of ours. The People of Australia, Australia's multicultural policy, was launched on 16 February 2011 by Minister Chris Bowen, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, and this policy reaffirms the importance of a culturally diverse and socially cohesive nation. At the launch Mr Bowen reflected on the unique model of multiculturalism that Australia has developed over many generations. Our brand of multiculturalism is underpinned by practical settlement strategies including migrant resource centres, multicultural youth organisations, English tuition training and cultural orientation programs, but at its heart Australia's multiculturalism is about citizenship—building a shared sense of nationhood with common values.

Since announcing the policy, the government has done a range of initiatives over the last 12 months. (Time expired)


Senator FURNER (Queensland) (15:03): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate how the elevation of multicultural affairs to the ministry reflects the government's commitment to multiculturalism?


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (15:03): At the launch of the Australian Multicultural Council, an outcome of the People of Australia multicultural policy, the Prime Minister reflected on our diversity and spoke of an Australia well poised with the coming Asian century. Australia has a great asset in its people, and this government is committed to ensuring that we draw on the skills and benefits that migration brings to Australia. We recognise the competitive advantages that diverse communities provide in terms of both language skills and cultural understanding. The importance of this cannot be underestimated in an increasingly globalised world. Our multicultural nation means we are uniquely connected to every part of this world. These connections support trade relations and create incentives to invest in our economy and our country.

Multiculturalism is about leveraging these benefits but creating a nation where everyone genuinely belongs. (Time expired)

Senator Chris Evans: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.