Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the word. More than a quarter of us were born internationally, and at least 48 per cent of us have at least one parent who was born overseas. Living in a country with a large cultural footprint, there are many benefits to acknowledging and celebrating multiculturalism and diversity, particularly with children and young people.
Children and young people are our future. When they understand where they fit in the world and appreciate their own (and other people’s) cultural backgrounds, they can improve their own future and the future of those for generations to come.
In early childhood development (particularly) adults are the most powerful role models for children. Therefore, it’s important that we can positively influence them to respect and appreciate cultural diversity from an early age.
Harmony Week is an annual event in Australia. It’s a day that reminds us of belonging and it encourages us to celebrate our own and other people’s cultural backgrounds. Harmony Week is centred around Harmony Day (which falls on the 21st of March). Additionally, Harmony Day coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Harmony Week promotes three key themes: inclusivity, respect and belonging.
Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, sibling, child educator or a role model in a young person's life, there are numerous ways that you can help children to celebrate Harmony Week. Here are a few ideas:
You can access free colouring-in worksheets and craft ideas online through websites like Teach Starter. Sitting down with children to create artwork that represents and recognises Harmony Week is a great way to educate them about cultural diversity and get them to actively participate.
This can be achieved by teaching them basic greetings or phrases in another language. When children learn a new language, they expand their appreciation of other cultures and build their communication skills.
Encourage children to embrace multiculturalism through food. Exposing young people to food of different cultures allows them to discover different flavours. Who knows – they might find their new favourite dish.
Learning about another country or culture is another great way to celebrate Harmony Week. You can do this by working with children to explore the different languages that are spoken in that country or culture, different lifestyles, meals, attractions and more.
If you’re an educator, you could set a task for your students to teach the class about where their family comes from. This can also help children to identify similarities and differences between their cultural backgrounds with their peers.
You don’t just have to celebrate multiculturalism during Harmony Week. There are different events and opportunities to appreciate cultural diversity all year long. Here are some ways that you can do that with children and young people. You can:
- Promote and model inclusive attitudes/ behaviours
- Encourage young people to appreciate others and their cultural backgrounds
- Support them with understanding the similarities between people of diverse backgrounds, just as much as the differences
- Expand awareness through teachings, such as learning a different language
- Be prepared to discuss diversity at any time
- Participate in culturally significant days throughout the year (Survival Day, NAIDOC Week, World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, World Refugee Day, Human Rights Day etc.).
Anglicare Southern Queensland are supporting non-indigenous carers and staff to better understand the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care. Learn more about how we help achieve that through our blog ‘Cultural support in action.’