For some people, Harmony Day is a day to celebrate different homelands by sharing homemade treats from all over the world. But for others, it means so much more.
Cuc Lam, Multicultural Service Officer from the Footscray Service Centre, recounts how she came to Australia from Vietnam in 1978.
“My husband and I escaped from a war-torn country by boat with nothing but an empty suitcase and the clothes on our backs,” Cuc said.
“While we were grateful to be here, it was initially a difficult time for us as I didn’t know the language so we couldn’t get jobs. I had to go to school again – even though I had a university degree back home – and had to somehow find a way to support my family, both here in Australia and back in Vietnam.
“The culture shock was tough but luckily a number of church and community organisations helped me adapt. Building a new life here was such a huge motivation for me. I am grateful that the Australian Government, as well as my school, supported me to learn English and get a tertiary education.
“I used to sit on the ground feeding my son with one arm and doing my thesis with the other. There were no computers back then and we weren’t allowed to use liquid paper. It was a good lesson for me to be diligent, neat and tidy!
“I’ve received many other qualifications since and have worked in various jobs including in science, aged care, education, interpreting – but for the last 26 years I’ve worked for the government.”
Cuc volunteers for many organisations including the North West Migrant Resource Centre, Western English Language School, Gateway Community Services, Consumer Advisory Committee at the Western Health Centre and St Vincent hospital, the Multicultural Advisory Group from the Hobsons Bay City Council, as Vice President of External Affairs for the Vietnamese Women’s Association (Victoria Chapter) and is a Justice of the Peace for the whole community.
“The way I see it is that every day is an opportunity to give back to the country that supported us,” Cuc enthused. “It’s hugely satisfying for me to be able serve our customers and the wider community.
“I love every minute of my job and I love helping people – especially those who are migrants and new to the country. And every year, I help run information stalls to celebrate the Refugee Week event held by councils and service providers. This is something I’m very passionate about.
“I’ve even donated my suitcase to the Immigration museum in Victoria as a national treasure so the next generations can see! I want to share my story with the public and tell them I don’t take my life in Australia for granted.
“Harmony Day is an important event where I reflect on how far I’ve come and appreciate how Australians have welcomed me with open arms. This year’s theme is ‘Our diversity is our strength’ and I can certainly attest to the value diversity brings to the whole community.
“On 21 March, I’m looking forward to bringing some traditional spring rolls and wearing orange – the Harmony Day colour.
“I encourage everyone to get behind this great event to share their stories, experiences, traditions and enjoy each other’s company.”
- About 45% of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was
- 85% of Australians agree multiculturalism is good for Australia
- The most common languages spoken in Australia other than English are Mandarin, Italian, Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Vietnamese, Tagalog/Filipino, Spanish and Hindi
- Over 60 Indigenous languages are spoken in Australia
- 92% of Australians feel a great sense of belonging to our country
- Harmony Day is held every year on 21 March to coincide with the United Nations International day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
- Read more about the department’s payments and services for migrants, refugees and visitors
- Read more about the department’s payments and services for Indigenous Australians