Harmony Day is really something special to celebrate at school in Australia. We are a country made up by such a large mix of cultures and heritages with proud and appreciative citizens and our families truly reflect this. As a result, Harmony Day becomes an opportunity for children and their families to both celebrate their home cultures and traditions whilst also celebrating their love and adoption of Australian culture and citizenship.
I teach at a school in Dandenong with a high Middle Eastern and African population. As a result, many of our students and their families come from a range of cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds. Whilst there are many opportunities to explore and reflect upon this during the year in the classroom, Harmony Day sets aside a special date of celebration which in turn, signifies to the children that their different stories and background are something to be remembered, treasured and celebrated.
Our day began with a whole school parade. Our students were encouraged to wear traditional clothing, representative of their culture, to school rather than their uniforms. As a result, our students resembled every colour of the rainbow that morning with glittering saris and dazzling tunics.
As we watched each class take a lap around the field, it was an opportunity for the children to see what types of clothes other students and their families wear outside of school and even, outside of Australia. Students also had the opportunity to wear the colour orange, a colour which has been chosen to represent Harmony Day. We were also treated to Cook Islander, Indian and Sri Lankan style dances and musical performances performed by students.
Our Afghani mother’s group also spoke to our school, promoting their activities and development of the group. This network of mother’s is an integral support system for new arrival and EAL families and provide assistance, support and guidance on a range of topics for our families including lunch box etiquette, uniforms and welfare connections.
As the day progressed, many classes continued celebrations in their individual classrooms. In the junior school, we read texts such as “I’m Australian Too!” and “Whoever You Are” by Mem Fox. These and other examples of children literature examine how similar we are as humans even if we look different on the outside and come from different areas of the world. They help guide discussion around familial backgrounds and culture and create a safe space for children to ask questions and learn from and about their peers.
We also looked at the Australian flag, researching why we always see it with the same colours and what symbol means. In older grades, students had the opportunity to research and recreate the flag of the country in which they were born and attached these to a world map. Students also created large banners and murals depicting the meaning of harmony and ‘togetherness’, using symbols such as handprints and self-portraits.