Celebrating Harmony Day at the Australian Museum, Thursday 10 March 2016.

Thursday 10 March, 2016, Sydney, Australia: To celebrate Harmony Day, the Australian Museum (AM) will work with Indigenous and Pacific communities to present a cultural feast, with Lei-bombing, traditional dance and carving workshops on the menu.

Harmony Day is held every year on 21 March to coincide with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The message of Harmony Day is everyone belongs. It’s a day to celebrate Australia’s diversity – a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home – from the traditional owners of this land to those who have come from abroad.

On Saturday March 19th, the festivities commence with free dance performances from Pacific cultural group, Rako Pasefika, featuring an explosive performance of drumming, chants and dance showcasing the vibrant cultures of Fiji, Rotuma and Tonga.

Visitors to the museum will be greeted by a colourful and welcoming landmark, a Lei-Bombed Tree by New Zealand artist, Niki Hastings McFall. Decorating large trees at the entrance to Museum Walk using traditional Pacific leis, symbolises the idea of ‘greeting’ by honouring AM visitors from all walks of life.

Traditionally made from fresh flowers and foliage, lei were used in the Pacific for personal adornment, as markers of identity and status, as symbols of affection and to show honour and regard to the recipient. The Lei-bombing of the tree will take place 19, 20, 21 March.

Also on Harmony Day, John McBride, a Wailwan man from Coonamble, North West NSW, will demonstrate the contemporary Aboriginal practice of Emu egg carving. Emu eggs are prized by Aboriginal people for both food and for collecting. Just like human skin, emu eggs have seven layers. The colours range from deep green and textured on the outer layer to white and completely smooth on the inner layer. This one feature distinguishes emu eggs from all other eggs.

Many Aboriginal artists undertake the practice of emu egg carving as a connection to culture and to share the messages about native animals, landscape and the importance of maintaining balance in the ecosystem. Amongst the AM’s 40,000+ rare Aboriginal cultural artefacts, there are 24 carved emu eggs by three different Aboriginal artists - Badger Bates, Gully Dennis and Ian ‘Tongee’ Kennedy.

The AM is custodian of one of the world’s most significant Pacific cultural collections with approximately 60,000 ethnographic objects. These objects are inextricably linked to the artists’ beliefs and local social systems as well as creating a symbolic connection to a larger view of humanity.

In addition to onsite activities on Harmony Day, the AM will also hold a special outreach session in partnership with Granville Youth and Community Centre and the Rako Pasefika dance group. This outreach program continues in the tradition of a ground-breaking project started in 2009 by the AM and Juvenile Justice NSW and other stakeholders which connects the Pacific collections with young offenders and at-risk young people of Pacific heritage. The project – the first of its kind in the world – recognises that stronger connections to culture help reduce offending or re-offending behaviour amongst young people of Pacific backgrounds.

“Artistic expression is fundamental to stronger cultural identity, self-respect and community obligations. Through our Harmony Day activities and through our collections we can deepen our knowledge and create a greater understanding of the culture and heritage of our Indigenous and Pacific neighbours.” Thelma Thomas, Youth Worker, Cultural Collections, Australian Museum said.