Swan Hill celebrates culture

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As a child growing up in the Mallee over three decades ago, I wouldn’t exactly say that the Swan Hill region was culturally diverse. However, after returning to the area five years previously with my own family – following the conclusion of my travels – I couldn’t be prouder of how accepting the wider community of Swan Hill has become over the past few decades.

Here I was, travelling the entire world whilst experiencing many cultures, and here I am, returning home to find it rife throughout my own back yard as many people from across the world have found solace in our regional community of Swan Hill.

My kids will experience a different Mallee upbringing to myself. They will not stare (innocently) at the person on the train in the city because they are of a different colour. They will grow up with many friends from around the world. How fortunate are they?

Harmony Day is one of my favourite yearly events in Swan Hill and as this year’s event quickly dawned on us, I wanted to convey the real message behind the festivities – aside from gorging on food and playing in the park – to my three kids. So a few days ago I explained that the underlying message behind Harmony Day is that ‘everyone belongs.’

My oldest daughter looked at me quizzically and exclaimed, ‘why wouldn’t they?’ And there lays our simple answer; straight from a child’s mouth.

When we think of a region’s ‘growth’ we think of prosperity, infrastructure, population and property prices (just to name a few). However, on Saturday 10th April the Swan Hill community showed that they have progressed in a much more unique and harmonious way, regardless of their position on the map or socio-economic status.

Riverside Park – once again a sea of cultural colours – played host to over 3000 people as the community came together in unison for the seventh consecutive Harmony Day.

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People in Swan Hill and from afar were treated to a wide range of mouth-watering dishes from Afghanistan, Peru, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Malaysia, Korea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, India and Australia, highlighting the diversity of our Swan Hill region.

Throughout Riverside Park there were an array of activities on offer such as an experiential play zone, Henna art designs, a ukulele workshop and kid’s yoga. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pry my kids away from the Giant Harmony Garden of flowers – the budding showstopper of the event – to experience these fun activities.

Intended to represent a future of harmony with a bright range of hopeful colours, the flowers in the garden were created by many hard-working volunteers and local school groups. The garden was truly breathtaking as kids from all corners of the world danced and played together within its vibrant confines.

However, within hours the garden had meshed into one big scene of colour as the enticing paper flowers were devoured by the scores of children present on the night. Although disheartening to see their hard work ripped from its haunches, the harmonious message was ever present as the children were united in a colourful paradise.

The crowd also enjoyed a full program of entertainment such as a cultural fashion parade, cultural dancing, the Bendigo Chinese Lion Dancers and various musical bands to rouse the senses.

On our return from Harmony Day, all three of my kids declared that they had the ‘best time ever.’ They attempted new food, experienced other cultures, had the time of their life in a big maze of colour with other kids from around the world and went to bed without a fuss. What more could I ask for?

Well done to the organisers on yet another successful event. The chime of chatter, laughter and happiness in Riverside Park on Saturday evening was certainly harmonious, as the town came together to celebrate cultural diversity.

I am looking forward to Harmony Day in 2017. I can smell the food already…

For more details check out https://www.facebook.com/swanhillharmonyday

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