By CELA on 6 Mar, 2019

17-23 March 2019

Almost 50% of all Australians were either born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas, a fact that the organisers of Harmony Week 2019 are keen to share this year.

That’s right: Harmony Week. This year is the first time organisers (currently the Australian Department of Home Affairs) have extended the title from Harmony Day to Harmony Week. The change from a day to a week recognises the increasing number of activities in early childhood services, schools, and communities. There will still be an official Harmony Day, however, on Friday 22 March.

Read about case studies of early years Harmony activities like this one at Carinya Early Learning Centre and this one at Zipkidz Family Day Care.

The 2019 Harmony Week runs from 17 to 23 March. Find out more about events in your area here.

What is it?

Harmony Week is about inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, united by a set of core Australian values.


Harmony Week events come in many forms – wearing orange shirts, bringing international foods to share, or researching a new country or culture as a group. Some communities host picnics or long table lunches, or a series of culture-based arts activities.

To plan your own event (yes, there’s still time!) check these Event Planning Guidelines.

Why orange?

Since it was established in 1999, Australia’s Harmony celebration colour has been orange. According to organisers, this signifies social communication and meaningful conversations.

One of the easiest ways to recognise Harmony Week is to wear something orange to show your support for cultural diversity and an inclusive Australia.

Resources for children and educators

Harmony Day infographic

The Harmony Week website is particularly rich with activities for children this year. Head to this page for downloads including instructions for making chains of connected people similar to the Harmony Week imagery (example, right).

If craft isn’t your thing, there is a kit for online media promotion of Harmony Week, which you might use to accompany thoughts on your service’s philosophy on inclusion, languages, or family connections.

Facts and figures

Here are some points of interest via the Australian Bureau of Statistics: maybe share them in your newsletter or on social media during Harmony Week?

  • nearly half (49 per cent) of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was
  • we identify with over 300 ancestries
  • since 1945, more than 7.5 million people have migrated to Australia
  • 85 per cent of Australians agree multiculturalism has been good for Australia
  • apart from English, the most common languages spoken in Australia are Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Italian, Greek, Tagalog/Filipino, Hindi, Spanish and Punjabi
  • more than 70 Indigenous languages are spoken in Australia.

What’s a Yiayia?

Released ahead of Harmony Week, What’s a Yiayia? is a new children’s book that celebrates cultural diversity. Written by Stella Stamatakis, a teacher, the book encourages children to understand, appreciate and respect diversity.

It also explores the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren – and the important role that grandparents play in helping the next generation connect with their culture and heritage.

The story

A girl called Eleni tells her friend Luca that her yiayia is picking her up from school and they’re going to make avgolemono soup together.

Luca has no idea what she’s talking about until he realises that Eleni is talking about her grandmother. Luca’s grandmother is called Nonna and he loves making ravioli with her.

In fact, all Eleni and Luca’s friends – whether they’re Lebanese, Vietnamese, Chinese or from country Australia – have a grandmother, the only difference is the special name they have for her and the favourite meals they make together.

Inspired by real life

Inspiration for the book came from Stella’s daughter, Elle who one day declared to her classmates, “My yiayia is picking me up from school today!”

Their response – “What’s a yiayia?” – led to this story.

“When Elle recounted the story back at home that night it initiated lots of great discussion about different cultures.  I loved the moral of the story – and thought it was a perfect springboard for teaching my students about cultural diversity and acceptance,” says Stella, whose own parents were migrants to Australia from Greece.

“At the beginning of each school year, I would put up a list of the various names my students had for their grandparents, so that when peers spoke of their grandparents it was no longer foreign, “

What’s a Yiayia? is aimed at readers and listeners from preschool and early primary years. Stella says educators will be able to draw many connections to the Belonging, Being and Becoming Early Years Framework for Australia. The book is beautifully illustrated by French artist Oscar Fa.

About the Author

Stella Stamatakis was a primary school teacher for more than 25 years in Victoria. Stella has also taught in South Australia and China. When not writing, Stella is a volunteer at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in the community kitchen and food bank. She lives in Melbourne with her husband Frank, their two children, Elle and Max, and dog, Luna.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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