Australia Day message one of respect


Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith has urged people to spread messages of respect and understanding, putting aside stereotypes this Australia Day.

Australia Day should be a day of respect and understanding among the nation's diverse population, Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith says.

In a multi-cultural celebration at Bankstown on Sunday, Mr Roberts-Smith called for people to say a friendly "G'day" to someone with a different background on Australia Day and to break down stereotypes.

Mr Roberts-Smith, who chairs the National Australia Day Council, said too often global issues taint people's views, resulting in perceived differences when really humans are all the same.

"Stereotypes replace individuals; we rush to assumptions. Individuals and communities become involuntary symbols of a problem they don't belong to," he said.

"Antagonism rises and useful dialogue stops. It's all too hard to work out what's really going on so we don't bother."

He called on people to lead fresh conversations around Australia Day, to show the nation's capacity for confronting serious wrongs of the past and changing attitudes.

"Australia Day is as much about our nation's past as it is about its future," Mr Roberts-Smith said.

His speech to launch the 2016 Australia Day campaign was bookended by a traditional welcome to country, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern performances, and a morning tea where even the selection of baklava and lamingtons showed off the nation's diversity.

Bankstown, where 63 per cent of the population has parents born overseas, was the perfect place to host the launch, mayor Khal Asfour said.

"Bankstown is proof that we are a generous and welcoming community," he said.

"Our community is a textbook case of how respect and compassion coupled with sufficient planning and infrastructure provides the necessary environment for migrant communities to flourish and grow."

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said Australia Day was not owned by any one part of the community.

"Let's be clear - if you love your country you should leave room for everyone in this country to be part of it," he said.

"It's not a day for extreme nationalism, it's a day for all of us to celebrate what's good about this country."

The National Australia Day Council is working with the National Museum of Australia to archive photos uploaded to Twitter using #AustraliaDay to create a national record of Australia Day 2016.

Source AAP

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