Everyone belongs, that’s the message as people of the Central Highlands are encouraged to celebrate their communities’ cultural diversity on Harmony Day.
Held on 21 March each year, Harmony Day is a celebration of what it means to live in a strong multicultural country, like Australia.
Lillian Dinatus Ndaya knows firsthand what it’s like to adapt to a different culture. She came to the Central Highlands with her three children ten years ago from Cameroon, Africa. Mrs Ndaya had to learn that looking into another person’s eye or calling people by their first name is not a sign of disrespect, as it’s considered as such in her home country.
This year, she was nominated for a Citizen of the Year award at the Central Highlands Regional Council Australia Day Awards.
As a founding volunteer member of the Emerald Community Gardens and a long-standing volunteer at local community events, she likes to share her values of helping others in need and giving back to the community that gave her family a warm welcome and a safe home.
‘It was good for me to give back to the community that made me welcome and it was a good experience to meet different people from different cultures and backgrounds,’ she said.
She often shares food, grown in her garden, with people in need or as a gesture of friendship.
‘Back in Cameroon, if I cook, I will share food with my neighbour,’ she said.
‘If I don’t see my neighbour in the morning, I will go and see if they are alright.
‘I come from a family who quite like to give.’
Community work bridges the gap between lifestyle and cultural differences for Mrs Ndaya and is a way she, as an individual, can contribute to stronger, more connected and engaged communities.
Around ten percent of people living in the Central Highlands were born overseas. Almost half of those were born in other countries in Oceania; 2.2% came from Europe; and 2.4% from Asian countries. A small percentage were born in America and Africa.