Toowoomba’s place as a harmonious multicultural city was on show at the University of Southern Queensland’s (USQ) Harmony Day celebration last week. Harmony Day is a day of cultural respect for all Australians – from the traditional owners of the land to newest arrivals from countries around the world.

Beginning with a Welcome to Country from Jarowair Elder, Aunty Vanessa Fisher, the event was full of heartfelt presentations by University and community leaders, including Mayor Paul Antonio, stunning song and dance, delicious international foods, and cultural information stalls. Folk songs from Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines and Syria were sung, traditional dances from Papua New Guinea, India, Fiji and China were performed, and groups of Japanese high school students attended wearing their yukata kimonos.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Karen Nelson said it was an opportunity to rejoice and also reflect on ways to bring people together. “USQ celebrates Harmony Day to show respect for the cultures and backgrounds of our staff and students, beginning with the country’s First Nations people,” she said. “Our staff come from more than 60 countries and our international students come from 94 different countries with more than 120 languages spoken by staff and students.”

Professor Nelson, who originally hails from New Zealand, said the celebration was particularly poignant given events in her home country over the past weeks. “Let us use this Harmony Day as an opportunity to make USQ even more inclusive,” she said. “It is a chance for us to reject intolerance, ignorance and hate, so we can go forward together in peace and harmony.”

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