By Hamed Saberi
Australia is a society of peoples from a rich diversity of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious backgrounds. Most Australians today are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants who arrived over the last two centuries from more than 200 countries and settled on the land belonging to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have inhabited Australia for 65,000 years.
Australia is multicultural and multiracial, and this is reflected in the country’s food, lifestyle and cultural practices and experience. In Victoria, for example almost half of the people were either born overseas or have at least one parent who was born overseas. Victorians speak over 260 languages and follow more than 130 different faiths.
However, in the recent global, social and political environment, threats to social cohesion, harmony and security have emerged. Cultural Diversity Week, which is Victoria’s largest multicultural celebration, is a brilliant response to these challenges as it features an exciting program of festivals and events across metropolitan and regional areas and invites Victorians to embrace and celebrate our cultural diversity.
The Week is held annually in March to coincide with the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and Harmony on 21 March. This year the Victorian Multicultural Commission has chosen ‘Proud to belong’ as the theme for Cultural Diversity Week which is run from 17th till 25th March. The Commission believes that it is all about sharing stories, and this year we celebrate the everyday diversity of Victorians. ‘Proud to belong’ also asks Victorians to think about the formula for a strong sense of belonging, as well as the role we all play in ensuring our communities are welcoming and inclusive.
In the past few decades, Melbourne’s south-east, and in particular the city of Greater Dandenong and the city of Casey, have become home to a thriving community of Afghans, enjoying a haven from violent persecution in their homelands. On the 25th March, the last day of the Cultural Diversity Week 2018, the Afghan Australian community in Melbourne is doing their share in embracing Victoria’s diversity by hosting the Nawroz Festival at Dandenong Park. Organized by Victorian Afghan Associations Newtork (VAAN), the Nawroz Festival is a celebration of the Afghan new year with live music, dance, entertainment, food and lots of fun.