This week, my thoughts have been with our New Zealand friends, colleagues, emergency services and broader community and with Muslim communities throughout the world. There has to be some good to come from this tragedy, something that demonstrates that these precious lives have not been taken in vain.
During Cultural Diversity Week, it is as important as ever that we stand as one against racism and Islamophobia.
Victoria is one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world, and a great place to work and live. We are fortunate in Victoria to enjoy a culturally diverse community, and in light of Friday’s attacks, I encourage every one of us to consider what more we can do to foster diversity and inclusion.
Racism and intolerance are attitudes that have no place in our communities.
We know that it is fear and ignorance that breeds racism. The more we strengthen our relationships with people from culturally diverse backgrounds, and the more we understand about each other, the more we recognise just how much we have in common.
That is the beauty of living in a multicultural society – we have the opportunity to get to know people from different cultural backgrounds and hopefully recognise that beyond the stereotypes are people who have the same hopes and dreams for themselves, their families and in particular, for their children.
Alongside thoughts, sympathies and solidarity, there is also an opportunity to ask, what more can we do?
One of the most powerful things we can do to counter racism is to take a stand against it, and challenge racist views and actions that cause harm, when it is safe to do so. Research shows that when bystanders don't react, it increases the impact of the incident. By letting the target know you don't support the hate, you can help transform a negative incident into a positive response.
In the workplace we can do more to champion diversity and inclusion and ensure that there is no potential bias during recruitment and to ensure that the right person gets the job. Our emergency management sector will be so much stronger when we better reflect the communities we serve.
As we have seen through watching the Prime Minister of New Zealand lead with strength, humility and empathy, one of the most powerful tools we have is listening. To listen to the voices of those who feel marginalised can be so powerful in demonstrating support and understanding.
We must work harder to build respect and social cohesion. This Harmony Day we must stand together so that all of our communities feel safe, included and valued. We owe it to our children and to those who will come in the future seeking refuge.