Shoalhaven City Council is encouraging the community to come together and celebrate its cultural diversity during Harmony Week on 15-21 March 2021.
This year the theme for Harmony Week is “Everyone Belongs”.
Vincentia Pharmacist Ali Nazim was born in Baghdad and raised in Istanbul.
He arrived in Australia with his family when he started high school and says it was a very daunting time for a teenager.
"We lived a very comfortable life in Iraq but had to leave because of the bombs continuously raining down upon us," Ali said.
"In Turkey we experienced extreme poverty living on day old bread that was thrown away by the bakers."
Upon his arrival in Australia, Ali says he gained tremendous community support.
"I had no English and used to think chicken was pronounced kitchen!" he said.
"However, the amount of support we received here was extraordinary.
"The school system and ESOL program really works."
Ali is very modest but from arriving here with no English he achieved an ATAR in the high 90s
"When I celebrated my first Harmony Day at school, I wore a galabya (a traditional Arabic robe). At my last Harmony Day at school I wore shorts and an Akubra."
Ali says coming to Australia was the best thing his family could have done.
"It is a land of opportunity where hopes and dreams are realised," he added.
"I know that here my daughter can be whoever she wants to be, unconstrained by the rules of my home country."
Ali is the owner of Choice Pharmacy in the HomeCo. shopping centre in Vincentia.
"I came to Vincentia in 2015 – I opened the pharmacy on a Monday, was married the following Saturday and in 2018 we had a lovely daughter. It did take two years before we could get away on honeymoon."
Ali says his pharmacy is a very happy and welcoming place and is a true melting pot, with staff members from Italy, Ireland and Germany.
Council has joined the Shoalhaven Harmony Week Planning Committee, along with five local organisations to promote the national week, encouraging the community to take part in a list of challenges, such as decorating a mailbox with orange-coloured decorations at home or for business owners to decorate a store-front shop.
Mayor Amanda Findley is inviting the community to celebrate their own and others cultural heritage, by coming together during the national week.
“Harmony Week is an opportunity for all communities to join together to celebrate the many cultures that make up our local community," she said.
"It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone,” Cr Findley said.
“The Shoalhaven has a long history of embracing people from many cultures and recognising the richness of diversity it brings to the region.
“This year we are encouraging the community to hold an event or activity as part of Harmony Week, and to take part in the Shoalhaven Harmony Day competition.
"I’m looking forward to seeing shop fronts, doors and letterboxes decorated with Harmony-themed, orange-coloured decorations as well as videos and photos of events posted on social media."
A promotional stall will be held in Jelly Bean Park on Thursday March 18 between 11:30am and 2:30pm.
Photo and interview courtesy Shoalhaven Harmony Week 2021 and SCC.