There are 48 different cultural backgrounds within the school community, and all but about eight of OLR’s 653 students speak a language other than English at home.
Today, the students, parents and staff came together to celebrate Harmony Day, an annual initiative to promote respect for cultural diversity and belonging.
A morning assembly began with a multilingual welcome. The word ‘hello’ was broadcast in each of the languages students at the school speak including Arabic, Vietnamese, Tongan, Russian, Croatian, and Swahili.
We celebrate Harmony Day every year, but we live it every day.
The welcome builds on past language assemblies the school held as part of the KidsMatter program to promote student wellbeing and inclusion and reward positive language. Each fortnight parents and students would teach the school community how to say words in a language other than English.
For Harmony Day, students from each class also collaborated to create two pages each of a book to acknowledge their cultural heritage and their home in Australia. The OLR book is inspired by Mem Fox’s rhyming story about the ethnic diversity within the country, I’m Australian Too.
Diverse Learning Coordinator Margaret Austin co-ordinated the book project. She said students drew pictures and collaged found images that reflected each nationality beneath the words: ‘I am Australian, but I come from… How about you?’
VIDEO: Students explain Harmony Day
Ms Austin said the book was an exercise in acceptance and appreciation.
“Because there are so many cultures here, it is an opportunity to make sure we are acknowledging all cultural backgrounds within the school and to develop the attitude that it doesn’t matter where you come from – we are one,” she said.
“Creating the book gave children a chance to stand up and explain to their classmates how their culture works.
“Parents appreciate the fine details. We acknowledge and we are living as one community. We celebrate Harmony Day every year, but we live it every day.”
Principal Jackie Vella has been part of the OLR community for just eight weeks and said she has felt incredibly welcome by families, staff and students. She said it was wonderful to be able to celebrate and acknowledge such a wide diversity of cultures at school.
“A lot of the children have come to school dressed in traditional costume,” she said. “It makes them proud to be able to celebrate their culture and not feel separate. At lunchtime they’ll play games together from countries around the world.
“[Previous principal] Brother Nicholas was very highly respected and did such a fantastic job. He left big shoes to fill, so it was so nice to be so welcomed by so many people.”