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Voices in Peace

On the importance of harmony

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Harmony Day celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. It is held every year on 21 March to coincide with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

It is a day for all Australians to embrace cultural diversity and to share what we have in common.

The central message for Harmony Day is that ‘everyone belongs’, reinforcing the importance of inclusiveness to all Australians.


  • around 45 per cent of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was
  • 85 per cent of Australians agree multiculturalism has been good for Australia
  • apart from English the most common languages spoken in Australia are Mandarin, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Vietnamese, Tagalog/Filipino, Spanish and Hindi
  • more than 60 Indigenous languages are spoken in Australia
  • 92 per cent of Australians feel a great sense of belonging to our country

There are many events that happen around Australia to celebrate Harmony Day and there are many initiatives that take place during the year with the aim of involving the community in instilling characteristics of harmony, compassion and appreciation among all people.

Below is an example of one such initiative in the rural town of Leeton in the Riverina region of New South Wales Australia.

Multicultural Links Crucial For Residents

By Talia Pattison


17 March 2016


Click here to read the entire article


COMING to Leeton from Afghanistan is more than just a tiny change.

One of those to do just that is Humaira, who moved to Leeton to be with her husband just over a year ago.

With Harmony Day celebrations planned for this weekend, Humaira said she had never felt more welcome or happy to be part of the Leeton community.

She admitted the first two weeks spent in the town were a different experience, but she was soon put in touch with the Leeton Conversation Group.

This organisation has been set up for women that have come to Leeton from places such as Afghanistan, Iran and India to make connections with each other.

Humaira said without the group she would be lost.

“When I first moved here I was quite bored and homesick, but after going to the group I was able to make friends,” she said.

“I have learned so much (from the group members).

“They have taught me many things, helped me and answered all of my questions.

“Now, I love it here. I definitely want to stay.”

Humaira came to Leeton after her husband proposed to her.

He had come to town as a refugee from Afghanistan and works at JBS Riverina.

Both are from the Ghazni province in the country.

Humaira is a trained teacher and now volunteers at Parkview Public School.


To read the entire article please click here

Last Updated on Friday, 18 March 2016 09:28

{Speech} Multiculturalism and "Team Australia" by Dr Tim Soutphommasane

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Multiculturalism and “Team Australia”

Dr Tim Soutphommasane

Race Discrimination Commissioner

Speech to Community Relations Commission for a Multicultural NSW Symposium

Parramatta, NSW

20 August 2014


The Hon. Victor Dominello MP, Minister for Citizenship and Communities

Mr Hakan Harman, CEO, Community Relations Commission

Thirty years ago, we were warned that Australia was fracturing into a nation of tribes. We were warned that multiculturalism and immigration were undermining the Australian national identity.

The warning came in a speech delivered by the historian Geoffrey Blainey. It was a significant intervention. Professor Blainey was – and remains – one of Australia’s eminent historians. His speech would spark a national debate. It would be the first major public challenge to Australian multiculturalism.[i]

Since then, there have been few periods when there hasn’t been debate about multiculturalism. Diversity’s critics have been perennially noisy. But for the most part Australians have come to accept and embrace cultural diversity. It is something that is a part of our daily lives. Far from controversial, it is a natural presence – there in our homes, schools and neighbourhoods; there in our shops, offices and workplaces.

Back in 1984, faced with dire predictions of national discord, not everyone would have been confident that multicultural Australia would succeed. Yet there is no better way to describe our reality. Modern Australia is a success story of multiculturalism.

I am delighted, then, to be here as the Community Relations Commission relaunches as Multicultural NSW. This relaunch is an emphatic statement of our cultural diversity.

Gone are the days when people felt awkward about the word multicultural. Few these days are splitting hairs about the difference between a multiethnic Australia and a multicultural Australia. We have grown more comfortable in our own skin, whatever that colour may be. And more relaxed about there being more than one way that you can be Australian. We have, if you like, become rather relaxed and comfortable about Australian multiculturalism.


To read the entire speech please click here.


{Article} This is not what my religion represents

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This is not what my religion represents

Ghaith Krayem

Herald Sun

13 August 2014

At some point we have all felt like that proverbial dung beetle pushing his ball up the hill only to see it roll back down again. I had one of those moments this week.

On Sunday evening I had a tip that there would be something terrible printed in Monday’s edition of The Australian newspaper, that horrific images coming out of Iraq/Syria would once again put the spotlight on the Muslim community.

Needless to say that after spending the previous few days dealing with the fallout of the Government’s dumping of the Racial Discrimination law changes, the proposed new national security laws and then the call for a 100-year war against Muslims, it was with a sense of dread that I went to sleep on Sunday night.

The images that we awoke to were, in a word, horrific. Horrific for their complete disregard for the sanctity of human life and body. Horrific for the shattering of innocence for those young children who are being raised in that environment. Horrific for every single Muslim who once again has to distance themselves from such atrocities and say, “This is not who I am. This is not what my religion represents”.

But it isn’t. This is not who I am and this is not what my religion represents. As hard as it may be, we need to keep reciting that litany or only the voices of madness will be heard. The voices that through some incomprehensible way of thinking can somehow justify to themselves such reprehensible actions. In Islam, when we see evil we are told to take action to stop it, but if we can’t do that, then to speak out against it.

We can’t physically do anything to stop such horror occurring overseas but we need to continue to raise our voices against it. We need to continue to oppose such unspeakable horrors for no other reason than it is our obligation as Muslims to do so.

As Muslims, we are meant to stand against injustice and oppression, regardless of who the perpetrator is, even if it is our own family. As Muslims, we are meant to protect the weak and needy, care for the poor and hungry. Things that seem a million miles away from the images that have recently appeared in the newspapers and on our television screens with far too much regularity.

As a Muslim, it is hard to confront these issues. To face the fact that someone who you have something, no matter how small, in common with could do such a thing. But confront it we need to do. It is harder still to answer the question of “Why?”. Why would someone do such a thing? That is an important question because it goes to the very heart of the worry and concern that our fellow Australians have. Something that we can’t simply dismiss because we know in our hearts it’s not something that we would do.

It is not, either, a simple case of writing off those individuals off as extremists or radicals. Those terms are meaningless in this context.

Many people hear the same religious messages yet do not go on to commit such atrocities. The causes are varied and nuanced.

There is ample evidence to suggest the individuals, before they found religion, were troubled — many have criminal histories unrelated to religion, many had drug and other dependencies and many have been diagnosed with mental health issues. It is incumbent on us to put aside the easy labels and sensational headlines and analyse what has led these individuals to this point.

The Government’s solution of broadening the national security legislation even further is doomed to fail. Many of these people left the country under dubious means or reached their current locations through circuitous routes — therefore putting stricter travel restrictions against them would have had no impact. We need to work together to get a proper understanding of the societal, cultural and human conditions that came into play and led these individuals to where they are today. Only then can we be in a position to put in place preventive measures.

Until then we need to keep building bridges across our community, not tearing them down. We need to do away with the labelling and sensationalism we see coming out of government and media alike.

We need to acknowledge that there are people committing these atrocities and that no one, Muslim or non-Muslim, in this country supports such actions. We need to work together to find a solution to this issue whatever the underlying causes are.

I ask you to remember that I, and all the other Muslims in this country, are part of the fabric of this society. We are hurt and shocked by what we have seen even more than you because it was done by someone who called themselves a Muslim.

But stop asking us to apologise every time something like this happens. We have nothing to apologise for because this is not what we are and this is not what our religion is.

Ghaith Krayem is secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria



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Minister Victor Dominello on Weekend Today (video)
An interview on the issues of multiculturalism, violence against women, and attitudes to violence in Australia



The upside of fasting
An article by Mehal Krayem in which she shares a different perspective on the challenge of not eating from sun up to sun down

Sharia operates within the legal system, research shows
Dr Ghena Krayem, President of MWA, discusses Shariah in Australia

Sunrise Interview with Rev Fred Nile
Watch the manager of MWA discuss the issue of hijab with Rev Fred Nile on Channel 7's Sunrise

Freedom of religion, belief, and gender: a muslim perspective
Supplementary paper for the Australian Human Rights Commission by Dr. Ghena Krayem

Young Australian Muslim women finding a voice
Dr Christina Ho says a generation of young Australian Muslim women is growing up with a strong sense of identity

The civil and social participation of Muslim women in Australian community life
A report by Dr Helen Mc Cue funded by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship identifies the drivers and barriers to Muslim Australian women's participation in Australian civil and social life


Premier's Speech at Voices in Peace Launch at Parliament House
Listen to the former Premier of NSW's address at the Voices in Peace Launch in 2010

SBS Report on Voices in Peace
Listen to the SBS report on the Voices in Peace initiative

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 10:58

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