TEACHING CULTURAL HARMONY: Students with diverse cultural heritage populate Mildura Primary School, something which is celebrated every year with Harmony Day. Pictured are Mildura Primary School Prep-6 students, Roghayeh Jafari, 12, Fateen Talabi, 8, Mariam Bunyadi, 12, Belle Kho, 11, and Pesi Fonua, 8. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By JOHN DOOLEY

MILDURA Primary School Prep-6 celebrated their annual Harmony Day on Wednesday this week, which saw the school’s diverse community of students and parents joining in a variety of colourful activities, including traditional song and dance from different corners of the globe.

The school’s art teacher, Mary Kafegellis, said that Harmony Day was about inclusiveness and the celebration of the different cultural-heritages among their more than 360 students.

“We have a large number of students who have different cultural backgrounds and we’ve been celebrating this day for more than 15 years now,” she said.

“The kids who aren’t in some form of traditional dress are encouraged to wear something with orange in it, which represents the colour of harmony.

“We generally celebrate the day on March 21, but this year we had other activities happening, and so it was moved to the 27th.”

Ms Kafegellis said that other schools also celebrate Harmony Day, but it was particularly appropriate for their school given the wide range of ethnic-diversity.

“Because our school has such a high-percentage of children who have a second language, we have always done it, because it’s such a natural fit,” she said.

“We have students from Afghanistan, Malaysia, Cambodia, Samoa, Tonga and many more places from around the world.

“It’s our Term One celebration and we have a different event each term including NAIDOC week in Term Two, Term Three is Book Week and in Term Four we hold our end-of-year concert.

“This morning the kids have been singing different songs, in different languages, and our Tongan and Samoan children performed their traditional dances, and the children from Afghanistan were dressed in their traditional costumes dancing for the first time, which was wonderful.”

Ms Kafegellis said that she has Greek heritage, something she is proud of.

“Too right I have, and proud of it. So why shouldn’t these kids be proud of where they have come from?,” she said.

In a world that is sometime less than harmonious, to see an event like Harmony Day bringing so many different people together under the one umbrella gives hope to a brighter future, something Ms Kafegellis is hopeful of.

“We try to encourage respect for each other and a sense of belonging. It’s a chance for the children to wear their traditional costumes, and even though it’s just one day, it provides a great opportunity to show how proud they are of their heritage.”

At the end of the performances, the entire group in the hall sang ‘I am Australian’, following which, everyone enjoyed the (Halal) sausage sizzle, topped off with icecream, coffee and soft drinks! 

Ms Kafegellis summed up the day perfectly in one sentence: “We may be different, but the reality is, we are all the same,” she said.