Shoalhaven businesses and community members were awarded for their involvement in Harmony Week challenges during a celebration on Wednesday.
Sharing multicultural desserts at the Shoalhaven Regional Art Gallery, the Shoalhaven Harmony Week Planning Committee were delighted to give prizes to those who promoted diversity and inclusion on March 15 to 21.
To celebrate Harmony Week in a COVID-safe manner, the committee organised online challenges via a Facebook group where community members could share ways they were celebrating multiculturalism.
"We were very mindful of the possibility of lockdown because of COVID, so we wanted to do something that was COVID-proof this year," said Project Officer at the Illawarra Multicultural Services Amro Zoabe.
"We started asking people in their own businesses, organisations and homes to celebrate Harmony Week facilitated through online challenges, including decorating your mailbox.
"The beautiful thing about this was that it made it flexible for people to celebrate in their own way, which still counted as an entry into the competition."
Speakers at the event included Shoalhaven Mayor Amanda Findley and worker at the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) Multicultural Health Service Sofia Lema.
"Events like this are really important, because diversity makes places much more interesting and much more hopeful," said Ms Lema.
"The fact that everyone here was willing to come on board and join the challenges or be sponsors is a real testament to the Shoalhaven being ready to embrace multiculturalism."
The celebrations wrapped up with music played by Lotus Harmony, with singer Ineke Veerkamp sharing an original song about her experience as a migrant who came to Australia via South Africa.
"I had an incredibly traumatic experience in South Africa. I use music a lot to help us get strong enough to fight or heal our wounds," she said.
"It's such a different world here, there's amazing natural wildlife that Holland has a little bit of, but it's nowhere as strong and vibrant. I'm always so grateful that I've ended up in the beautiful, natural world of Australia."
Some recipients of awards included: the Bomaderry Aquatic Centre, On Your Marks Childcare, Sanokil Nowra, Music is a Verb Sanctuary Point and band Inspektor Gadjie.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.