AS Australia marked Harmony Day on Wednesday – a day dedicated to celebrating diversity in our society –we were reminded that as far as we have come, there is still a way to go.
Schools in Orange used Harmony Day to spread the message that our society is stronger together, that our differences should be cherished even as we work towards common goals of reconciliation and social cohesion.
The Harmony Day website says the day is about inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, united by a set of core Australian values.
It is a beautiful and worthy dream.
As our youngest citizens were learning these important lessons, though, one of their sporting heroes was again having to endure the appalling behaviour of others due only to the colour of his skin.
The National Rugby League has launched an investigation into reports their star player Greg Inglis was racially abused by a fan during a match at Penrith on Saturday afternoon.
The abuse was cowardly and unforgivable but, sadly, remains all too common – especially at sporting venues.
Sydney Swans AFL star Adam Goodes became embroiled in his own racial abuse controversy after “calling out” a young female fan who abused him during a match five years ago and not even local and junior sporting contests are immune to such language.
And what that all shows is that there is a need for constant reinforcement of the message of inclusion.
Australia has made some grand gestures towards reconciliation in recent years – most importantly former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s tearful apology to the Stolen Generation – but even the greatest gestures can be quickly eroded by just the smallest insults.
When we are talking about a person’s identity, we are talking about the most personal depths of their own humanity.
And when someone seeks to insult or demean someone at such a personal level, the damage is real.
Greg Inglis is a hero and a role model to thousands of young Australians. He is a proud indigenous man and a leader both on and off the football field.
He deserves so much better than the foul name-calling of an idiot in the crowd – and so do all of us.