15 March 2024

Nine ways to mark Harmony Week in the Illawarra

| Dione David
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Muslim woman and her daughter on the beach

Multiple organisations have come together to hold water safety training for multicultural communities this Harmony Week. Photo: Arief Nurhidayanto.

From Monday 18 to Sunday 24 March Wollongong Lighthouse will be illuminated in the traditional harmony colour orange to celebrate Harmony Week and the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI) is already running a Multicultural March social media campaign about cultural traditions and practices.

There will be many ways to celebrate our multicultural communities, but the event will also help bridge certain gaps for our culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) neighbours, according to Ying Fan.

She is the cultural engagement coordinator for the Royal Life Saving Society NSW, an organisation joining forces with NSW Surf Lifesaving, NSW Government Office for Sports, University of Wollongong, MCCI, Illawarra Multicultural Service (IMS), Red Cross and Wollongong City Council to host a Multicultural Water Safety Day this weekend.

She says people born overseas are drastically overrepresented in drowning data, with the highest numbers among people born in China, India, Iraq, Vietnam, Nepal and South Korea.

“Australia’s natural environment and resulting education and culture on water safety is dramatically different from that of their home countries. Most of them haven’t been surrounded by waterways the way we in Australia are,” she says.

“I’m from China, and I can tell you that my water awareness and education were very different from what my children receive here.

“We need to bridge that gap.”

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Ying says a big part of the problem is the perception among CALD communities that drowning risks are confined to the beach.

Not only is this not true, but recent Royal Life Saving Society research showed that post-COVID, the top drowning locations moved away from the coastline to inland waterways such as rivers and creeks.

“Suburbs with higher migrant populations are most likely to encounter these waterways, ” she says.

“There are also many reasons why people with multicultural backgrounds might not go to the beach. They might be intimidated by the waves, or, culturally speaking, many women prefer quieter, more private locations – but they don’t realise the risk this can pose.

“We need to set off some alarm bells in our newly arrived immigrants and send a clear message – just because it’s not the sea, doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

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Multicultural Water Safety Day, taking place on Saturday 16 March, seeks to plant this seed and hopefully raise awareness among multicultural communities about how to enjoy Australian waterways safely.

It will cover a range of safety tips, including the easiest way to navigate a dangerous situation in the water.

“I love this event because it brings the community together over something so important and is invaluable to our newly arrived people,” Ying says.

“Australia is a beautiful land. We shouldn’t limit anyone’s access to our waterways, but we must educate them on how to enjoy them safely.”

If you can’t make it to Multicultural Water Safety Day, there are plenty of other ways to mark this occasion. Here are our top nine picks.

All week

Collective Treasures exhibition

When: From Wednesday 20 March
Where: Curio Gallery, 143 Crown Street, Wollongong (Church Street side of Central Chambers Building)
Cost: Free.

Produced and curated by Jes R R Alexander, Collective Treasures is a collaborative art project completed by culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) young women for Harmony Week. Participants created artworks in boxes that explored themes of home and treasured memories. Check out the new art installation from Harmony Day (20 March) at Curio Gallery, which consists of four large display windows facing the Church Street side of the Central Chambers Building.

This project is supported by the council’s Small Cultural Grant program.

African man and Asian woman swimming

This free water safety session aims to help address the disproportionate representation of CALD communities in drowning statistics. Photo: Light Field Studios.

Multicultural Water Safety Day

When: Saturday 16 March, 10:30 am to 2 pm
Where: Fairy Meadow Surf Life Saving Club, Elliotts Road, Fairy Meadow
Cost: Free, book here.

This session is for individuals and families who want to learn about beach and water safety and will cover important water safety educational sessions and demonstrations. After, there will be a barbecue lunch – the perfect opportunity to mingle. Please note that families bringing children will be responsible for their children on the day.

Young woman holds soccer ball

Join this IMS-run soccer session for fun, fitness and socialisation. Photo: zamrznutitonovi.

Indoor soccer

When: Saturday 16 March, 2 to 4 pm
Where: Illawarra Hockey Centre, Waples Road, Unanderra
Cost: Free.

IMS holds regular sports sessions for the Illawarra’s multicultural communities. Open to anyone with multicultural or refugee backgrounds, the sessions promote fun, fitness and socialisation among CALD cohorts and offer an opportunity to practise English in a low-pressure, judgement-free environment. Though aimed at people aged 16 to 25, all are welcome, and no prior experience is needed.

Love to sing but English isn't your mother tongue? That won't matter in this choir.

Love to sing but English isn’t your mother tongue? That won’t matter in this choir. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

Multilingual Speech Choir Workshop

When: 16 March, noon to 3:30 pm
Where: Wollongong Art Gallery, 46 Burelli Street, Wollongong
Cost: Free, book here.

This is the choir group for musically minded people who speak another language. Award-winning composer Dr Ekrem Eli Phoenix is inviting people to try a new kind of choir; one that weaves different mother languages into a dynamic performance. No singing or performance experience is required to participate – this workshop is focused on fun.

Su-Lien will sing songs and tell stories in both English and Chinese.

Su-Lien will sing songs and tell stories in both English and Chinese. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

Bilingual Storytime

When: 18 March, 10 am to 10:45 am
Where: Dapto Library, 93/93-109 Princes Highway, Dapto
Cost: Free.

Develop your child’s language and listening skills with bilingual storytime. Hear songs and stories performed in both English and Chinese by the library’s highly qualified volunteer, Su-Lien, the principal of the Southcoast Chinese Language School and mentor at the University of Sydney’s Community Languages School Leadership & Management Program.

This program runs every 3rd Monday of the month during the school term.

Tai chi close-up

This event promises to be educational, mindful, and social. It also presents an opportunity to practise English with fellow multicultural citizens of Illawarra. Photo: prathanchorruangsak.

Tai Chi, Tour & Lunch

When: Tuesday 19 March, 10:30 am to 1:30 pm
Where: Nan Tien Temple, 180 Berkeley Road, Berkeley
Cost: $10, to book phone 4229 7566 or email [email protected].

Part Senior’s Festival, part Harmony Week, this tai chi session hosted by MCCI is for our older multicultural citizens. Held at Nan Tien Temple, numbers are limited to 25 to ensure an intimate experience, so book soon to avoid disappointment. Guided tai chi will be followed by a temple tour and lunch.


Create your own Moroccan-inspired artwork. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

Around the World Sip & Paint

When: Tuesday 19 March, 1 to 3 pm
Where: Thirroul Library, 352/358 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul
Cost: Free, book here.

Wollongong City Council invites everyone to celebrate cultural diversity this Multicultural March at an “Around the World Sip & Paint” session at Thirroul Library. Enjoy international teas and learn how to paint your own cultural artwork. This is the last of three standalone sessions spotlighting a different culture, and it focuses on Morocco.

The session is free, but bookings are essential.

Hispanic man uses computer

Online scams are on the rise, and people with limited English skills can be at greater risk. Photo: zamrznutitonovi.

Digital Literacy Training

When: Wednesday 20 March, 9:30 am
Where: MAX Wollongong, Ground Floor Mercury Building 1, 21 Auburn Street, Wollongong
Cost: Free.

This digital literacy session, delivered by IMS to students learning English at MAX Wollongong, covers two important topics for anyone operating in the digital space: online scam awareness and how to care for your electronic devices. Both could end up saving you a great deal of money.

Older woman

Learn to navigate Service Australia systems. Photo: vozdvizhenskayadina.

MyGov Training

When: Wednesday 20 March, 2 pm
Where: IMS Wollongong office, Level 1, 67-69 Market Street, Wollongong
Cost: Free.

This MyGov training exercise will train IMS volunteers to assist refugee clients in accessing MyGov and using Services Australia websites. However, members of the public are also invited to learn and will be trained to pass the knowledge on to fellow CALD community members.

This session is one of IMS’ many programs teaching multicultural communities how to navigate Australian systems in the digital space safely and effectively. For more information visit IMS.

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