Focus on eliminating racial discrimination 

Today (Thursday 21 March) marks the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, often referred to in Australia as ‘Harmony Day’. 

Federation, like many organisations dedicated to campaigning for social justice and the elimination of racism, acknowledges that the framing of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as ‘Harmony Day’ is a misrepresentation of its true intent.  

Although many in our diverse communities rightly enjoy the opportunity to share and celebrate their cultural heritage, customs and beliefs during Harmony Day events and activities, taking the focus away from the true meaning of the day can detract from its real purpose. With framing that only highlights harmony, the systemic racial discrimination experienced by so many, for so long, remains hidden and unaddressed. This contributes to the denial of racism and encourages the politics of fear and division that often characterises public discourse in Australia today. 

Racism negatively affects educational, social, emotional and physical health, and life outcomes. International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a day to acknowledge that racism causes this harm and creates barriers to social cohesion. Addressing this reality requires all of us to work together to both understand and challenge racism, in all its forms. This can be achieved through truth telling in education, the provision of safe spaces for diverse voices to be heard and the countering of disinformation with facts; and by working together to combat systemic and structural discrimination. 

If you would like to learn more about the history of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we invite you to read this fact sheet titled “How ‘harmony’ hides structural and systemic racism”, produced by the Australian Human Rights Commission. 

On 21 March, Federation is redoubling its efforts to challenge racism and promote equality. We encourage everyone to celebrate cultural diversity and to continue learning about anti-racism. The Racism. It Stops With Me website is a great place to visit to learn more about racism and how schools and individuals can take action to eliminate it. 

As we reflect on the significance of this day, Federation commits to continuing the important work of building a society that is fair and equal — for everyone. This is the only way we can truly achieve real and lasting ‘harmony’.