As 2021 comes to a close, we are all reflecting on the challenging times we have lived through in recent years.

Darren Bark
The Daily Telegraph
December 30, 2021

Sadly, the first day of the year no longer brings instant freedom from the troubles of the previous year that it used to. Instead, we are acutely aware that the problems follow us, and whatever illnesses take root will stalk us long into the future.

Like many, I thank my lucky stars that I live in Australia.

I was born here, in this multicultural society that accepts everyone – ethnicity, culture, religion, gender, sexuality, ideology, political views, and everything in between, are viewed as elements that enrich our country rather than detract from it.

People from over 190 different countries with over 300 different ancestries call Australia home. A third of us were born overseas, with even more of us having at least one parent born in another country.

For the most part, we all live harmoniously together – despite our many differences. Cultural groups that would have been unable to coexist peacefully in their originating country live side by side here, supporting one another’s businesses, their children going to school together and becoming friends.

We all get to benefit from artistic expression influenced by a variety of lived cultural experiences. We get to try new foods either made locally by our diverse community or imported from hundreds of different countries of origin. If we allow prejudices played out on the international political field to take root here, we jeopardise the richness of our Australian community. We cannot allow such hatred to infect and spread throughout our diverse communities.

Unfortunately, there have been recent, high-profile attempts by Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Australia to boycott the Sydney Festival to prevent an Israeli performance, which is sponsored by the Israeli Embassy in Canberra from going ahead.

BDS Australia has pressured artists, businesses and other organisations to bend under the weight of their own political agenda in a manner that undermines our multicultural way of life. There is certainly a place for politics – but undermining the harmony of our community, inhibiting the expression of our artists, and jeopardising the financial stability of our small Aussie businesses is not one of them.

I can think of no better message for peace than artists from the opposite ends of the cultural spectrum and everywhere in between, being able to create and innovate side by side as a proud symbol of our multicultural community. Australia is an example that harmony is achievable and that age-old prejudices can be overcome.

It is heartbreaking that there are some who equally benefit from our diverse, tolerant, and understanding community, who seek to disrupt, provoke, and undermine the inclusivity of our unique Australian society, rather than hold it up as a shining example for the world to see.

We must all stand together as Australians and citizens of the world to ensure that our communities, and the tolerance we have all fought hard for, are not the latest casualty of international conflict and war.