Posted on July 06 2020
During this time we want to tell the stories of great South Australians who are working hard to make a difference in their communities. The following is a guest post from Arman Abrahimzadeh - Australia Day Council of South Australia Board Member, City of Adelaide Councillor and 2016 SA Young Australian of the Year.
I had not come across and experienced any other culture other than my own until I arrived in Australia in September 1997. Until then I only spoke Farsi and celebrated events in the Iranian and Afghan calendars.
Arriving in Australia was like lifting the lid of a jewel box. Every direction I looked at, there was something interesting and new related to a culture or tradition I had never seen or heard of before. I was good at Geography…or at least I thought I was, but even then, I was coming across cultures that were new to me. The first ever classroom I attended in Australia was at Pennington Primary. This class had approximately 20 students and 10 flags. These flags represented every nationality that was present in that classroom during that calendar year.
We even had a day where we all wore our traditional clothes to school and had a “show and tell” session where we each took something of importance to our culture to school and talked about it.
Fast forward 22 years later, I find myself walking through Franklin Street in the Adelaide CBD, where thousands of individuals are dressed in their national colours and attire. They represent over 110 different cultural groups who are about to start a parade – the Australia Day Parade to be specific, which starts on Franklin Street and ends at Elder Park on King William Street.
This parade organised by the Australia Day Council of South Australia is the biggest multicultural parade in South Australia. As I sat on King William Street and waved at individuals participating in the event and observed each group “parade” by, I could not help but feel joy and pride for every single of them – young and old. Some groups even have choreographed dance routines within their parade routine.
As a ten-year-old kid when I arrived in Australia, 22 years ago, three things appealed to me when I was exposed to other cultures and traditions – food, dancing and music. As an individual that was only familiar with one culture, I was now getting to know more cultures and languages that I knew existed. There was such a diversity in languages, religions and customs but I couldn’t help noticing the similarities between them all.
Who knew that aspects of Middle Eastern culture were so similar to that of eastern European or that rice was as popular in South America as it was in the Middle East? Even hearing Greek music for the first time sounded almost the same as Middle Eastern music – same tempo, rhythm and no doubt similar instruments. Watching Laotian and Cambodian dancing, I felt that I could almost dance alongside them as Persians and Afghans have similar dance movements.
My first multicultural experience was arriving in Australia in September 1997 and from my perspective this country is one of a handful of nations in the world that is a successful multicultural society.
The similarities between cultures that are present in Australia has acted as the glue that has united us as a society. It has made us stronger and will continue to bind us, especially in difficult circumstances, as we go from strength to strength as a nation. There is an old proverb that says "if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together". Coming together as a nation and being united has made us come this far. I have no doubt that this unity will continue to take us even further as a nation into the future.
To learn more about joining the Australia Day Parade visit Australia Day in the City website