Harmony Day

Harmony Day in Australia is often acknowledged through a celebration of certain aspects of cultural identity such as food, music, and dance. Whilst there is a place for such celebration, this year the newly established Student Equity and Diversity team is showcasing three Macquarie academics whose research explores issues pertinent to Australia’s ‘cultural harmony’, such as the extremist rhetoric from Trump and ISIS.

Join the panel discussion on “How is the rise in global extremism affecting Australia’s cultural harmony?” which will be led by Dr Julian Droogan and Lise Waldek from the Department of Security Studies and Criminology, and Dr Noah Bassil, Director of Centre for Middle East and North African Studies.

For Dr Julian Droogan, drivers of extremism among youth are the search for meaning and the desire for a life of significance. “These drivers are manipulated by global extremist groups such as ISIS and the far right,” he explains. But it’s not all bad, according to Dr Droogan. “There is a range of opportunities and challenges in creating effective programs and narratives as part of countering violent extremism.”

Dr Noah Bassil, from the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, sees it a little differently. As Australians, he explains, we have to understand that both racism and the idea of tolerance have a history in our country. “We shouldn’t see what’s happening now, with the rise of groups like Reclaim Australia, as an aberration, because we have a long history of racism in Australia. Suggesting they are a new phenomenon is dangerous, as it suggests we’re in a virulent time.

“But it’s not all bad. We should also take optimism from the fact that our move to tolerance is stronger than ever before – that despite this negative history, we now also have a stronger anti-racist voice than ever before. If we can plug into the strength of that movement, then it will galvanise us to work towards a more tolerant future.”

Lise Waldek recognises very obvious links to another phenomenon. “Glocalisation – the inter-connectivity between local and global issues, experiences, and perspectives – is a dynamic phenomenon that is at the core of what makes violent extremism so complex to understand and counter. Developing societal resilience through active partnerships is one of the solutions that is being explored, right here in NSW, to address the complexities of glocalisation and violent extremism. This solution has its roots in us developing a broader understanding of social cohesion, as well as disaster management.”

Keen to hear more? The Harmony Day panel will be held next Tuesday 21 March. The discussion will be kicked off with a performance by INK DEPENDENT, winners of the Bankstown Slam Poetry Grand Final. Register now to secure a place.