Is Harmony Day muzzling the reality of racism in Australia?

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The Australian government has been criticized for continuing to celebrate Harmony Day on March 21 instead of the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Critics argue that Australia’s failure to commit to the purpose of the UN day has hampered the country’s efforts to understand, fund, and develop research into problems stemming from systemic racism. The Department for Immigration, Citizenship And Multicultural Affairs will ditch Harmony Day and instead celebrate Harmony Week. The strategic study found that celebrating the benefits of inclusion was more palatable. Although Harmony Day was introduced in 1999, some states did not adopt it until years later. Scanlon Foundation CEO Anthea Hancocks says Australia’s “positive view of multiculturalism has stayed high since the start of the survey in 2007” and is getting “stronger”. However, in 2021, 60% of survey respondents saw racism as a ‘very big’ problem, a sharp 20% jump since 2019. This coincided with a spike in reports of racially-motivated attacks during the pandemic. In 2020, Australian intelligence services (ASIO) warned of an increase in far-right extremism in Australia.

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