Embracing Diversity on Harmony Day

The Study Gold Coast team began celebrating Harmony Day early with a breakfast launch of their Embracing Diversity campaign. The Gold Coast’s new Home of the Arts, or HOTA, was plunged into darkness to see cultural diversity in a new light.

Members of the Gold Coast community, the city’s diverse student population and a number of dignitaries were caught off guard when the lights to the theatre suddenly went black as local and international student voices filled the air with their own stories of diversity and the city that now embraces them as their second home.

Study Gold Coast CEO Shannon Willoughby says the unique experiment was designed to change perceptions and counter stereotypes around ethnicity on the Gold Coast.

“It’s intimate, a little confronting, but ultimately an affirmation of who we are,” she says.
Today’s launch is just the beginning of Study Gold Coast’s Embracing Diversity campaign, with members of the Gold Coast community invited to join a Human Rainbow that will be formed on Kurrawa Beach on the morning of April 4.

One of the highlights from the launch was the screening of Embrace, a powerfully emotional film where a number of students and Gold Coast community members met for the first time and found themselves warmly embracing complete strangers.

Ms Willoughby says the idea behind the campaign came from the city’s student cohort:“The more we talked about it with our students, the more it became apparent that we needed to widen the conversation around diversity. What I love about this campaign is this issue was driven by the students themselves and, because of that, it’s authentic.

While the Gold Coast is typically seen to accept, nurture and embrace diversity, we felt it was important to not only share that story with the world, but to do it in a way that would allow our students to tell their stories. By sharing their stories, the personal becomes familiar and universally accepted. And that’s at the heart of what embracing diversity really is – knowledge and acceptance.”

With almost one third of the city’s population born overseas the Gold Coast has a rich, cultural community. Combine that with 25 000 international students representing over 130 nationalities and it’s clear that the Gold Coast has come of age as a global city.

Jermaine Rusike is from Zimbabwe and is studying law here: “I love living on the Gold Coast. It’s a place where I feel I can be myself. Diversity to me is about recognising that we’re all different and those differences make us stronger.”

Jazmina Tarmidi is a young Muslim woman undertaking a medical research degree at Griffith: “Embracing diversity is about the inclusion and empowerment of all social groups. If we educate ourselves about people’s differences, we can promote tolerance and respect.”

Study Gold Coast is inviting all members of the community to embrace diversity by joining their Human Rainbow. Shannon Willoughby says: “That rainbow will be formed on Kurrawa Beach right in front of the broadcast media site on the morning of the Opening Ceremony for the Commonwealth Games. Sunrise, the ABC and the BBC will all be there.

And we want you to be there too. This is a celebration of our students and our community and we want as many people as we can to join us to be a part of that. We like to think of it as getting the party started in the city before the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games.”

You can join the Human Rainbow on April 4 by registering at www.ourhumanrainbow.org

Want to find out more about Australia's favourite classroom?