“We need systemic change, not platitudes” Greens call to ditch Howard-Morrison concoctions of ‘harmony’ and replace Harmony Week with Anti-racism Week


Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens and spokesperson on Anti-racism Senator Mehreen Faruqi is calling on the Government to:  

  • replace the tokenistic Morrison era Harmony Week in March with a week of Anti-racism that takes real action to tackle racial discrimination and racist hate at all levels.
  • to create a stand alone Anti-racism portfolio in Cabinet.  

John Howard replaced the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD) with “Harmony Day” back in 1999, with the Morrison government adding on “Harmony Week” in 2019, when Peter Dutton was the Minister responsible. 

The Anti-racism Week would mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD) on the 21st of March and be an opportunity for organisations including parliament and the Australian Public Service to provide anti-racism training to their staff and parliamentarians in order to tackle racism. In 2022, the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Standards of which Senator Faruqi was a member, recommended that parliamentarians be provided mandatory training in anti-racism and First Nations cultural awareness, but this has not yet been actioned.

In the wake of the fifth anniversary of the Christchurch mosque massacre on 15th March 2019 when 51 Muslims were murdered by an Australian white supremacist, Australia still hasn’t reckoned with racism and we are still waiting for a National anti-racism strategy to be completed.

In 2023, Senator Faruqi called on Minster Giles and the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) to ditch Harmony Day and instead return to its original name, purpose and approach - the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. While the Minister finally acknowledged IDERD last year, there is still only a bare mention of it on the Australian government “Harmony Week” webpage. 

Senator Faruqi has written to Minister Giles calling on him to replace Harmony Week with Anti-racism week. 

Quotes attributable to Senator Faruqi:

“Harmony Week hides structural racism behind tokenistic gestures, when what we really need is to expose and tackle it.

“Peter Dutton was the Minister responsible when Harmony Week was first concocted by the Morrison government. Does Minister Giles really want to continue this legacy of whitewashing racism?   

“25 years on from the John Howard government whitewashing the international day set aside to eliminate racial discrimination, this Labor government is still insisting on hollow gestures of celebrating diversity. We should be joining the rest of the world and having the sometimes difficult conversations about the harmful impacts of racism and responding to it.

“Harmony Week’s superficial celebrations ignore the lived reality of racism for so many people of colour and First Nations people in this country. 

“The fact that these so-called harmony initiatives were dreamt up by John Howard and Scott Morrison governments, known for their discriminatory policies and dog whistling on refugees and migrants, should be enough reason to ditch them.

“Anti-racism Week will open up space for meaningful action, anti-racism training, and  show people what real respect means and what a genuinely equal and diverse society should look like. 

“The Greens were the first to create a standalone anti-racism portfolio four years ago recognising the need to grapple with the scale of the challenge. It’s high time the government did the same.

“Last year the Government ditched Harmony Day after our campaign. The next step is  to get rid of Harmony Week and Australia’s racism blindspot with it.

“It’s time for an honest reckoning with white privilege and systemic racism, rather than tokenistic celebrations of skin deep multiculturalism.”