Sacred Heart Catholic Primary Villawood knows the strength of a diverse community.
The school is home to 34 different cultures among its 162 students, including Vietnamese, South African, Sierra Leonean, Korean, Syrian, Samoan, Lebanese, Swedish, Indian, Greek, Italian, and Filipino.
The students, their families and staff celebrated their many cultural backgrounds on Harmony Day (March 21) with a multicultural mass and feast prepared by parent volunteers. The morning events were followed by an Indigenous performance by Matthew Doyle and Timothy Bishop.
Principal Michelle Bourne said Harmony Day was the second biggest day on the Sacred Heart calendar. Students were encouraged to wear traditional dress and their parents prepared food to share during a multicultural feast.
“We also had parents read prayers of the faithful in their language –Croatian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, and we finished mass with an African blessing song,” Mrs Bourne said.
“There’s nothing more enlightening than to see those young students in traditional dress,” he said. “It just makes you realise how many cultures we have in modern Australia. It’s about coming together. It’s not something where we can rest on our laurels. It’s something we all must work towards, particularly as we go through to hand over to the next generations. The most important thing is for them to be proud of their cultural background: that they don’t have to hide behind not being who they are.”
English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EALD) teacher Julie Casey co-ordinated the school’s Harmony Day celebrations.
“A lot of preparation goes into this day,” she said. “The parents are fantastic. They’re always willing to give their time to prepare and serve the food for our multicultural lunch.
“The kids love it and I really do think it helps them to see all of the different cultures that the students at our school come from and to reinforce the message that we do all belong and we all contribute.”
The students absolutely love the multicultural lunch.
About 95 per cent of students at the school have language backgrounds other than English, which is a second language for about 85 per cent of students. Language support at the school includes long-serving bilingual teacher’s aide Sr Angela Nguyen, who translates for the Vietnamese speaking portion of the community.
“The teachers are well aware of the different language needs within their class and cater for those in their teaching,” Ms Casey said.
“The students absolutely love the multicultural lunch. It’s a highlight for them, which makes it a highlight for me. A lot are willing to try different foods, which is great.”
Year 5 student Krista Majarian, 10, said she ate tabouli, zaatar and other Arabic foods for lunch.
“I wore traditional Armenian costume,” she said. “When my grandmother went to Armenia to visit she bought it for me to wear on special occasions.”
“Harmony Day is important so that people don’t make fun of other people’s cultures and we all celebrate them together.”
Year 3 student Jayden Nguyen said he also enjoyed Harmony Day, which included a lunch of dumplings and fried rice and a performance during Mass by students in Kindergarten to Year 3.
“I like how you can see other people wearing different clothes to school uniform, and you get to see other cultures,” he said. “I’m wearing Vietnamese dress. I wear it for Vietnamese New Year too.”
View Sacred Heart’s Harmony Day video below.