Neighbourhood community harmony

Article image - Neighbourhood community harmony

According to Macquarie University, Australia is far behind Europe and the United Kingdom in developing strategies to foster intercultural cohesion. Recent research in community harmony, conducted by Dr Amanda Wise, Project Director and Lead Researcher at the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion at Macquarie University, has emphasised the importance of local initiatives that go beyond one off multicultural festival days by striving to foster exchange at the level of everyday interaction.

Funded under the Federal Government’s Living in Harmony initiative, the Building Neighbourhood Community Harmony project is examining the role of Local Government in building sustainable communities across and between different cultural communities.

In partnership with the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion and Macquarie University, the project aims to develop innovative new models for promoting community harmony at the local level. Initiatives developed will focus on accessing and influencing the widest possible audience, impacting the everyday lives and practices of residents to ensure depth and sustainability of outcome and focusing on face to face interactions and exchange.

Building Neighbourhood Community Harmony hopes to achieve the following outcomes:

  • evidence based, replicable cutting edge community harmony models
  • a website featuring community harmony project examples
  • a downloadable tool kit for local Councils and community groups.

As part of this project, Ashfield Municipal Council in New South Wales, is encouraging greater social interaction between Chinese shopkeepers and the broader senior Ashfield community. The Ashfield Municipality is one of the most culturally diverse municipalities in Australia with 51 per cent of its population born overseas. Of the 36 per cent of people born in non English speaking countries, the largest group are Chinese numbering just under 3,000.

Activities undertaken so far have included a consultation with local Chinese shopkeepers, visits by non Chinese seniors to Chinese restaurants, and a visit by Chinese seniors to a non Chinese nursing home. A ‘Welcome Shops Open Day’ has also been planned to coincide with Harmony Day on 21 March. The aim of the open day is to encourage a wide crosssection of Ashfield residents to discover and explore Ashfield’s shops and get to know local shopkeepers.

For further information on the Living in Harmony initiative visit www.harmony.gov.au or contact Dr Amanda Wise on (02) 9850 8835