We had the honour to be invited to a local family’s wedding celebration recently, and again I was struck by the simplicity around community.
Don’t get me wrong this was no simple gathering, this was full Aussie Lebanese splendour, the cars, the dress, the outfits, the drums, the dancing, the sparklers and smoke effects, the singers and the amazing food and hospitality. This was theatre – but it was also love, pride, family and sharing and celebrating a bond between two people who had been childhood sweethearts.
Among the crowd of beautiful Kardashian looks, and kids in the party dresses and suits, there we were as welcome as anyone, eat drink and be merry.
So, this concept of community and what it means to be Australian, I am learning, is not about giving up your roots, your culture (even I could feel that primal call of the drum that I am sure my DNA will tell me is part of me). It is about togetherness, embracing each other in inclusivity and enjoying the eclectic fusion of food and culture that our mixed heritage brings to the party.
I have been invited to homes of and attended many social gatherings by local friends lately and they have all had their unique cultural spin on hospitality and togetherness. This tells me that religion and ethnicity have no bearing on whether we can and will assimilate. Our shared values around family, community, being made to feel welcome and accepted and welcoming others into our world are the ingredients that make community work.
Listening to the stories of what brought us to Australia, whether many generations ago or in more recent times are a common thread of hope and aspirations for our families and the promise of a safe and prosperous life. Strangely, in some ways a lot of us have been displaced or rejected from our original homelands and have a massive need to belong.
We are now so concerned about the issue of refugees and the lack of assimilation that I think we have failed to ask “why” so many people in the world are being displaced and “what” we should be doing about that?
Yes, it is true that there are elements in society that have not assimilated well and again it is a question to ask “why”? Easy to ask and not so easy to answer, I know, but, if we don’t we risk making knee-jerk decisions and bad policy and offer little or incorrect support to those who need assistance in finding their way.
Personally, in the work I do which is about building collaboration, local economy and social cohesion, I am constantly amazed and delighted by the spirit and like-mindedness I find in the community and this recharges my energy and my soul and give me confidence and hope that we can overcome challenges and find solutions to our problems at a grassroots level and partner with and guide the policy makers and leaders with sound advice and good practical examples of the way forward. We live local, Work Local, Shop Local – Collaborate Global – why not join us?