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How can we make Australia a better place for everyone?

This was the question up for discussion at an event hosted by Australian Red Cross last week.

Thursday September 22, 2016

Photo: Dilini Perera/Australian Red Cross

'Architects of Social Bridges' brought together experts, artists and members of the community to discuss cultural diversity and how we can build a more supportive Australia.

The evening opened with a performance by Abe Nouk, a spoken word artist who arrived in Australia as a refugee from Sudan. Abe spoke of the marvels he experienced as a young man in a new country, and the experience of starting over after years of uncertainty.

A panel discussion followed with panellists describing their experiences of Australia as a diverse society and what we can all do to be more cohesive and inclusive.

"Social cohesion is a sense of a collective whole. It's not "us" versus "them". It's all of us together," panellist and Red Cross board member Margaret Piper told the audience.

"It's working together for the wellbeing of everyone," said Sherene Hassan, Director of the Islamic Museum of Australia.

Concentrating on what we have in common, rather than our differences, is a key to building more supportive communities, according to the panel.

"When we meet people from different backgrounds to ourselves, we get to know them. And when we do, we recognise our common humanity. We hear their stories, we recognize that their dreams and objectives and aims are just the same as ours," said Margaret Piper.

The final word goes to panellist Shabnam Safa, who arrived in Australia as a refugee from Afghanistan in 2009.

"Never underestimate the power of kindness and humanity. You just never know how much a smile or a nod of acknowledgement might make a difference to someone's day."

To find out how you can make a difference, visit