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Harmony Day: Dana’s story

HerCanberra Team

For 15-year-old Dana Berjak family means everything… and she just has too many cousins to count.

Finding somewhere safe was the priority when Dana’s parents – Muhammed Ali and Ayman—fled war-torn Lebanon to settle in Canberra while pregnant with their first daughter.

Dana has a strong bond to her cultural heritage and even though she is a little embarrassed of some of the things it means to be Lebanese-Australian, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I am very proud of my heritage and there are a lot of celebrations always with funny dancing—it’s not uncommon for my aunties to get up on a table and start belly dancing!  And of course there’s lots of food,” Dana said.

“It’s always about the food.”

The Lake Ginninderra College student spends about three-months a year in Wardinyah—a small village in Lebanon where she says it’s normal for 50 people to be at the family dinner table at night.

And her family’s love of Lebanese food is being shared in clubs across Canberra.

Her dad, Muhammed Ali is the chef that runs the restaurants at the Civic, Charnwood and Weston Labor clubs.

“I like that I can bring my experiences of Lebanon back to Australia and share them with my friends. We often talk about the things we find funny about our backgrounds—and more often than not a lot of it is the same.”

Today marks the time to celebrate our similarities and how different cultures and backgrounds have formed our Australia as Harmony Day celebrates its 15th year.

Like Dana has experienced growing up in Canberra, we are more alike than we are different.

And that it is okay to be from one culture, but identify with many different cultures—that’s what living in Australia is all about and what binds us together.

While Dana says it upsets her when people joke about Muslims, or are fearful, she says overwhelmingly people have been accepting of her background and beliefs.

“I have always felt accepted here and it’s funny but most of my friends are from somewhere outside of Australia. I think it is a great experience for everyone to ask about each other’s backgrounds. You can learn a lot,” she said.

On March 21 Australians are being encouraged to talk about how culture plays an important part in shaping your identity.

One in four Australians was born overseas. We speak more than 300 languages and come from many different backgrounds with many different experiences.

On Harmony Day let’s celebrate the things that make us different, but more importantly what we have in common.

There are many ways to get involved in the anniversary celebrations this year. You can:

  • Register an event by visiting harmony.gov.au
  • Check the calendar on the website to find events near you
  • Like, follow and share using #harmonyday on:
  • Facebook: Harmony Day_AU
  • Twitter: @HarmonyDay_AU
  • Instagram: @harmonyday_au
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