Words by Rachel Trevarthen
Australia’s diverse culture is one of our most defining characteristics. One in four workers in Australia come from overseas and we now have the largest overseas born population of all large OECD nations.
But how much does the average worker really know about the cultural background of their colleagues?
Think about your own workplace. Do you know or interact regularly with colleagues of a different cultural background to you? Do you know the different languages and traditions of people in your workplace? Do you know why and how they came to be in the position they are?
A Taste of Harmony is an annual event that provides Australian workplaces with an opportunity to learn more about each other and celebrate the diversity in their workforce by coming together to share food and conversation. This year it will take place during the week of the 21st to 27th of March.
SIBW spoke with Anthea Hancocks, CEO of the Scanlan Foundation who is running this initiative.
“The corporate sector is incredibly important from an integration perspective. People need to have employment, feel that they’re valued and others know what they bring to the workplace and that they have a role to play in their new country,” Anthea says.
“We want to encourage organisations to recognise and celebrate this and find ways to encourage people to have more conversations.”
A Taste of Harmony began eight years ago and as of March 2015, there were 5400 participating workplaces, covering 350 000 people across large corporate sectors through to small and medium enterprises.
It is estimated 50% of discrimination occurs in the workplace. This is an incredibly important statistic to bear in mind when we think about how we can change people’s perspective about their colleagues.
There are unconscious and informal ways people have of discriminating often without being aware of it.
Anthea says participating in A Taste of Harmony is a good starting point for organisations who wish to play a stronger role in fostering positive multiculturalism but aren’t sure where to start.
“This is an easy entry point for organisations to start the conversation going and an important way of breaking down barriers, so people understand the ramifications of their language or their thinking on others,” she says.
“This is an easy thing to do, it’s not particularly controversial, as sharing in food and conversation is something we all like to do and won’t make people feel outside their comfort zone.”
Implementing such an initiative is often easier for larger organisations with broader communication strategies. Anthea says they want to reach out to more small and medium business – which have very culturally diverse workplaces, suppliers and customers – to ensure they don’t get left out.
Workplaces can register for free by clicking here and access a wide range of decorations, event ideas and promotional tools for their event.