The term ’Intersectionality’ refers to the ways in which different aspects of a person’s identity can expose them to overlapping forms of discrimination and marginalisation. It is interesting then, is it not, that this week and next sees the intersection of Harmony Week and Neighbour Day - both initiatives are about shedding stigma, celebrating diversity and building connection.
Beginning on the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Harmony Week is about celebrating our diversity and encouraging all Australians to respect each other as equals.
We know that belonging in a community is important to our mental health. As an individual or organisation we strive to build a community and services that support people from different countries and cultural backgrounds. We aim to create experiences that make all feel included, respected and have a sense of belonging.
Sadly we know that often people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds are not treated equally because of how they look or where they come from. This is amplified by challenges such as language barriers, stigma, trust and lack of information when it comes to seeking and receiving the right type of support and care for their mental health and wellbeing.
Harmony Week is about inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, united by a set of core Australian values.
Our cultural diversity is one of our greatest strengths and is at the heart of who we are. It makes Australia a great place to live. We celebrate this diversity within our families, our workplaces and our communities.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the 20th anniversary of Neighbour Day - auspiced by Mental Health Australia member, Relationships Australia.
Neighbour Day began in recognition of the impact loneliness, and lack of social connection has broadly on an individual, as well as community.
Loneliness is detrimental to our overall wellbeing. Social connection and increasing sustainable respectful relationships is the key to better outcomes for individuals and communities alike.
Relationships Australia CEO Nick Tebbey invited me to share my thoughts about the importance of neighbours in reducing social isolation and ending loneliness. You can read my guest blog here.
Neighbour Day is a practical and effective way to help address loneliness across our communities. There are many different ways to participate in Neighbour Day, whether it’s big or small – it all contributes to building respectful relationships, sustainable connections and reducing loneliness in our communities.
The Relationships Australia team have developed a number of free resources, including ideas to help you create sustainable connections with your neighbours and your community. These resources are available here.
Mental Health Australia, through the Embrace Multicultural Project, has put together resources in English and many other languages to support CALD communities and others to look after their mental health in Harmony Week. We are particularly proud to launch seven new videos in five languages from members of our Lived Experience Group. You can access all these multilingual resources here.
Intersectionality is the concept that all oppression is linked. More explicitly, the Oxford Dictionary defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”.
Intersectionality is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression and we must consider everything and anything that can marginalise people – gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, etc.
In the spirit of Harmony Day and Neighbour day, let’s ensure that our all our neighbours know that “everyone belongs”.
Have a great weekend.
Dr Leanne Beagley
CEO, Mental Health Australia