Harmony Day kicks off to promote diversity in the workplace

People in a circle with hands in the middle

Businesses around the country are celebrating Harmony Day today, an event designed to eliminate racial discrimination in the workplace and promote diversity by breaking down cultural barriers

Diversity Council Australia CEO Nareen Young said businesses should use cultural diversity to gain a wider customer base and foster greater employee productivity.

“We need to move way beyond tolerating other cultures. Embracing and celebrating cultural difference is the only way forward,” Young said.

With approximately 10 percent of Australian employees having experienced racial discrimination in their workplace in the last year, events like Harmony Day aim to help employees better relate to one another. The costs to businesses of bullying and harassment are overwhelming and are estimated in the range of $6 to $36 billion per annum, according to the Productivity Commission’s 2010 report Benchmarking Occupational Health and Safety.

“Even though we don’t like to admit it, racism is still a problem. The sooner we face up to it the sooner we can eliminate it,” Young added.

Harmony day is held on 21 March to coincide with the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination, but Harmony Day events can be held throughout this week.

Here are some ideas for how your business could mark Harmony Day:

  1. Food- Have each staff member bring in a dish of food from their cultural background to share.
  2. Discuss- Sharing stories and discussing differences can be a good way to break down any cultural barriers that might exist between employees.
  3. Sport- This year’s Harmony Day theme is sport, so get everyone together to play a team game  to help foster unity.
  4. Art & Craft- Ask staff to collaborate in an art or craft project to symbolise the different cultures in the workplace or community.
  5. Costumes- See if staff would be willing to dress in traditional outfits as a way of sharing cultural heritage.