22 February, 2023

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (16:43): 

I move:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges that Harmony Week is celebrated from 21 March to 27 March 2023, beginning with Harmony Day on 21 March;

2. Notes that Harmony Day has been celebrated in Australia since 1999 and expanded to Harmony Week in 2019;

3. Recognises the rich cultural, linguistic, racial and religious diversity of our South Australian community, and acknowledges that migrants and their descendants contribute to all aspects of our economy and society; and

4. Celebrates the success of multiculturalism and interculturalism in South Australia and encourages all community members to come together to show their support for cultural diversity and inclusion.


It is with great honour that I rise today to move this motion in my name to acknowledge the importance of Harmony Week. This year, Harmony Week is being celebrated from Monday 20 March to Sunday 26 March 2023. It is a national celebration that recognises our diversity and brings together Australians from all different backgrounds.

Harmony Day, held annually on 21 March since 1999, was introduced by the Howard Liberal Coalition government to promote a singular and unifying notion of multicultural policy for Australia. Since 2019, the celebration expanded to become Harmony Week in Australia. I am pleased to inform honourable members that I had the opportunity to host a reception here in Parliament House in 2019 when South Australia adopted Harmony Week in our state under the former Marshall Liberal government.

Harmony Day is a government-declared observance day that coincides with the United Nations' International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Harmony Day is typically marked by community events and local activities centred around the theme of equality and social justice. The message of Harmony Day is social cohesion and racial harmony and is expressed through community participation, inclusiveness, the celebration of diversity and respect, belonging and primarily the unity and togetherness from the community of different backgrounds residing within South Australia.

The designated colour representing Harmony Day is orange, a colour symbolic of peace and diversity in society. Traditionally, orange signifies social communication and meaningful conversations. It also relates to the freedom of ideas and encouragement of mutual respect. This motion seeks to recognise the rich cultural, linguistic, racial and religious diversity of our South Australian community and acknowledges that migrants and their descendants, together with the First Nations people, contribute to all aspects of our economy and society.

Our cultural diversity is a great strength and brings with it a whole host of traditions, cultures, religions, languages and of course performing arts, festivals and food. Embracing cultural diversity helps us to do things in different ways, reduces discrimination and challenges our unconscious bias, and opens our hearts, our homes and our workplaces to accept differences.

As a proud first generation Australian with a rich multicultural background, I am proud that I live in an accepting and harmonious society which has remained free from the most serious forms of racial intolerance and cultural conflict. Australians' innate sense of justice and fair play have helped us to create a very modern, diverse and accepting community in which we celebrate the values we share and respect our differences.

But this is no accident. All of us—communities as a whole and policymakers like us—have worked hard to achieve this goal. If we are to maintain our record as one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world, we have to make it clear that there is no place for racism in Australia. Racism is offensive to all Australians. It prevents people from actively participating in our society and from contributing their talents and skills to our development as a nation.

Everyone shares in the social and economic benefits of community harmony. Each year, there is a new Harmony Week theme. This year's theme is 'living in harmony'. This year's theme is asking all of us to embrace this responsibility and commitment to living in harmony. It requires every effort from everyone: parliamentarians, governments, individuals, families, communities and the corporate sector.

The campaign and activities of Harmony Week celebrate the strengths in which Australia is a multicultural country and it raises awareness of how different cultures can work together to create a harmonious society. Harmony Week is celebrated with a variety of community events and activities. Since 1999, more than 80,000 Harmony Week events have been held in childcare centres, at schools, community groups, churches, businesses and across federal, state and local government agencies across Australia.

Being the longest serving member of parliament in the portfolio of multicultural affairs, I have had the pleasure and privilege to serve our diverse communities and I have attended so many Harmony Week events across South Australia over the last 12 years. This year will be no different and I look forward to all of them. I want to give a big shout-out to all the individuals, volunteers and organisations for their amazing efforts to organise local events that highlight the talents and contributions of our inclusive multicultural society during Harmony Week.

The ongoing theme of Harmony Week is 'everyone belongs'. It is a time of cultural respect for all involved. As I said before, Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, from the oldest continuous culture of our First Australians to migrants from over 200 countries. Our cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths and is at the heart of who we are. It makes South Australia a great place to live.

Everyone here has a part to play in upholding the best of traditional Australian values, those values of equality, acceptance and living peacefully together, whatever our religious, social, cultural and racial differences. I encourage all South Australians to work together to celebrate Harmony Day and Harmony Week. I thank you all for your amazing efforts to preserve, to protect and to advance multiculturalism and interculturalism in our beautiful state. I commend the motion.