Each year on Australia Day, Australians come together to celebrate living and being part of this nation, a multicultural nation, a nation expanding and thriving on accepting people of all different races, cultures and backgrounds. However, this year I am asking you to look at multiculturalism from a different angle.
While multiculturalism describes the values and beliefs we hold close, this term can be divisive in nature. Multiculturalism recognises the differences in background, skin colour and lifestyle and asks us to accept them.
Instead of multiculturalism, a term which focuses on the differences of our country and our people, I implore you to focus more on a common humanity. We all have this, yet no one celebrates what we have in common, we instead focus on our differences.
The key to acceptance and harmony is both; finding similarities, and accepting differences. Neither are more important, and having one without the other creates an imbalance which grows into disconnection with community, feelings of being unwelcome and isolation.
Our country is diverse, and we should celebrate that. But we should celebrate not just the diversity of our friends, family and neighbours; we should celebrate our common humanity.
I have worked with young people my entire life and have seen a variety of kids from all different cultures and backgrounds grow and develop into kind, generous and thoughtful people. Their backgrounds are irrelative to their nature, my kids are good people because that is who they are, and that is what defines them.
Australia Day is a time to focus on our common humanity, but like many of my other messages we need to continue to adopt this approach in our everyday lives. Australia will continue to develop, our people becoming more diverse and our cultures intertwining. It is up to you to develop with it.
Father Chris Riley
CEO and Founder at Youth Off The Streets