By Christian Edwards
SYDNEY, March 21 (Xinhua)-- Australia's cultural diversity takes center stage across the nation Thursday as Australians join together to celebrate Harmony Day.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Brendan O'Connor and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy, said the annual celebration was a chance for all Australians to embrace the many things that make Australia's diversity unique. "The values of inclusiveness, respect and belonging are fundamental to the development of Australia's successful multicultural framework,"Mr O'Connor said.
It is a day that seeks to celebrate Australia's broad cultural diversity, despite its relative youth as a nation. It is a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home from the traditional owners -- the aboriginal peoples of the first nation of Australia -- to those who have come from many countries around the world.
Minister O'Conner said"These values are at the core of what Harmony Day is about. Harmony Day is a fantastic time to reflect on and celebrate the rich patchwork of cultures which make Australia such a fantastic place to live."
Harmony Day is managed by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
It is widely celebrated across schools, childcare centers, community groups, churches, businesses and federal, state and local government agencies -- from the workplace to the police force.
In 2013, the theme of the Harmony Day is "Many Stories -- One Australia".
Workplaces around Australia have today celebrated workplace diversity to highlight Harmony Day. At Parliament House, the spirit of harmony was showcased by a distinctly multicultural morning tea.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy, who hosted the event, said that not only was diversity at the core of Harmony Day, but it was also at the heart of Australia's workplaces.
"Australia is a vibrant multicultural nation with different cultural experiences weaving rich stories into our everyday work," Senator Lundy said.
"Harmony Day is a time to celebrate the success of our multiculturalism and reflect on the way our diversity has shaped the way we live and work."
The theme underpinning this year's Harmony Day emphasizes that each of Australia's 22 million citizens has a unique story to tell. "I encourage all Australians to join in the fun on Harmony Day, share their unique experience and learn about the lives of other Australians from every corner of the globe,"said Senator Lundy.
In Sydney, the NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas was awarded for his leadership role in promoting harmony between cultural communities across Australia's most populous state.
The award was presented by the Affinity Intercultural Foundation to recognize special individuals and organizations who have demonstrated "extraordinary commitment" to foster harmony and serve society for the greater good.
Deputy Commissioner Kaldas was recognized as a "Champion of Harmony" at the inaugural Gala Awards Dinner held in Sydney last week.
The award recognized Mr Kaldas for his work in championing cultural dialogue and mobilizing others to peacefully engage, collaborate and implement the vision of a harmonious society.
Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas said he accepted the award on behalf of "the hardworking men and women" of the NSW Police Force. "The award is fair recognition of the work all police officers carry out every day with all different communities," Deputy Commissioner Kaldas said.
Affinity Intercultural Foundation's Executive Director, Ahmet Keskin, said it was difficult to choose only one winner in each category. "It is a privilege to acknowledge those individuals and organizations who espouse the shared values of mutual respect and understanding,"he said.
Preparations are being finalized for thousands of events across the country, including the lighting up of Federation Square in Melbourne and some of Canberra's iconic landmarks, including Parliament House, in the Harmony color -- orange.
Since Harmony Day began in 1999, almost 50,000 events have been staged across Australia with community groups, schools, churches, local governments and the business community once again coming together to celebrate the cultures that "make Australia a great place to live".
Harmony Day is celebrated on March 21 each year, significantly drawing focus to the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. "Harmony Day is a fantastic opportunity to reflect on the unique sense of belonging which has grown from Australia's multicultural foundation,"Minister O'Connor said.