On the 20th anniversary of Harmony Day, many around Australia say it is time to have a serious discussion about discrimination and divisiveness.
Harmony Day is usually regarded as a day of celebration – but for many, the day is overshadowed by the recent tragedy in Christchurch.
Last week’s attack has encouraged many to see the day as a chance to reflect on the dangers of discrimination, and extremism.
In Melbourne’s Flagstaff Park, hundreds stood in silence, with their arms linked, in a show of respect for the lives lost.
Zakia Baig, the director of the Australian Hazara Women’s Friendship Network, was greeted with hugs from the crowd, after making an emotional speech.
“I come from Pakistan, I call this country my home,” she said.
“I felt safe, but now, I’m feeling vulnerable again.”
General Manager of the Islamic Council of Victoria said the Christchurch attack has made many fearful, but he appreciates the support from many non-Muslims.
“What has been really, really welcome is people coming together, and showing their support, and solidarity, in the wake of the event.”
Earlier today, a 14-year-old boy was charged by police over alleged online threats against a Geelong mosque – he had allegedly made threats to kill.
At the headquarters of the Human Rights Commission, Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan said he will begin consulting with Muslim community groups.
In the sessions, he will ask for their personal experiences of hate speech, and how they want things to change.
“An event like Christchurch impacts us all. So, when we celebrate (Harmony Day), we do it under the shadow of a very tragic event, and it must bear meaning,” he said.
“Perhaps we need to reset some of the things we thought had been working well.”
Former Socceroo and human rights activist Craig Foster said Harmony Day can be examined in a new light, and should be a day for everyone to consider human rights abuses.
“It’s around the essence of human rights. Everyone has the right to live, according to laws, but according to their own beliefs,” he said.