Celebrating Ballarat as city for all on Harmony Day

A CITY cultural leader says accepting each other’s differences is the best way Ballarat can move forward as an increasingly intercultural community.

City of Ballarat cultural partnership officer Liz Hardiman, Ballarat Rural Australians for Refugees Des Roache and Bryan Dwyer. Picture: Melanie Whelan

City of Ballarat cultural partnership officer Liz Hardiman, Ballarat Rural Australians for Refugees Des Roache and Bryan Dwyer. Picture: Melanie Whelan

But there was still plenty of room for improvement.

City of Ballarat cultural diversity coordinator Frances Salenga said understanding and cultural acceptance was a challenge for communities worldwide in the current global climate.

Ms Salenga said the way the city had embraced this year’s annual Harmony Fest activities really helped in promoting a positive message.

This also builds on Ballarat becoming the nation’s first intercultural city, joining a network of European cities actively implementing and embracing policies to promote cultural diversity as an asset.

“(Harmony Day) is very important because it show the events we’re rolling out in the city are for all of us,” Ms Salenga said.

“We can share all the different cultures we have in Ballarat because there is a real cultural diversity here.

“...Ballarat has been really changing the past few years and hopefully by the next census we will really see a big change in how culturally diverse this city has become.”

The city’s annual Harmony Fest has expanded to a 10-day program this year, including an inaugural Intercultural Cities Gala dinner on Friday night.

Ballarat marked International Harmony Day in a flag-raising ceremony in Queen Victoria Square, outside the town hall, on Tuesday morning. This year’s theme is strength in harmony.

Those gathered released bright orange balloons into the sky to an acoustic performance of Imagine

Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh spoke on how Ballarat was a city for all to belong and how sports, arts and cultural events played a vital role in breaking down barriers.

Ballarat Rural Australians for Refugees advocate Des Roache said there was room in our community to welcome and accept all. He said Harmony Day was crucial in the current world climate.

“This is for us all, Harmony Day,” Mr Roache said. “Welcoming refugees is all part of integration of people. There are 60-70 million refugees in the world and we’re trying to do our little part.”

Other Harmony Fest highlights are a string of Ballarat restaurants showcasing their unique cuisines, films, music and story-telling.