This week is Harmony Week, where the simple message is ‘everyone belongs’… Two simple words, but a concept that is somehow dividing and causing great harm to many.
The timing of Harmony Week couldn’t be more crucial for our community, our nation, and especially our New Zealand neighbours. Following the horrific events in Christchurch last Friday, we asked one of our consumers and carers on the National Multicultural Mental Health Project to help with this week’s blog, and let us know exactly how he was feeling, and how the events of last Friday have impacted his community.
Ali was born in Melbourne after his refugee parents came to Australia in the 1980s, following the Lebanese Civil War. He is 20 years of age, and as you’ll see from his thoughts below shows maturity and clarity well beyond his years. Of course, Ali is just one voice in our community, but I’m sure he speaks for many when he talks about being angry, sad and ‘not surprised’. Here’s hoping his voice, and literally millions more, start to be heard, and start to feel like they belong, because we don’t need Harmony Day or Week to remind us that ‘everyone belongs.’
Chief Executive Officer
My feelings since the events in Christchurch have mirrored the well-known stages of grief.
My first response when I saw the news on my phone about tragic events in Christchurch was a feeling of numbness. This soon changed to a feeling of ‘a lack of surprise’. This might sound strange, but as someone from Lebanon, I am used to hearing about similar events in Syria, Lebanon and neighboring countries. As someone who now lives in Melbourne, we are not immune to events happening in our city also, nor our New Zealand neighbours.
On hearing the news, I also felt incredibly sad. Really sad.
These feelings soon changed to be touched and even surprised by the large amount of support being vocalized and offered to our community.
We are not used to people in Australia offering our community so much support from all levels of society.
On Saturday night I was privileged to attend the Victorian Premier’s Gala Dinner where there was public acknowledgement from all speakers of Australian solidarity with diverse communities.
I also felt and still feel angry. Angry that it has taken such a horrific event for people to pause to reflect. Angry that we haven’t take enough pre-emptive action to avoid this.
To walk the talk – to see that we all belong to one community. And a reminder that in Harmony Week – this week – the simple message is that ‘everyone belongs.’
The silver lining for me has been that I’ve seen a change this time. Positive change and a change in rhetoric and language. Support and a shared sense of humanity.
The irony is, that this event happened on a day when young people all over the world were protesting over inaction on climate change. Another problem we need to act on. Just like domestic violence, where we keep talking but fail to really act as a community.
We can’t wait for tragedies to happen. We need to act now. We need pre-emptive change from all levels of our community.
We need to pause to reflect, and to feel all these emotions. But then we need to commit to bringing long term change.