Melbourne , Australia

Delicious! Celebrating Culture through Food

A Taste of Harmony

February 11, 2010

Using food to celebrate cultural diversity in Australian workplaces

A Taste of Harmony celebrates Australia’s “hotpot of cultures” through the joy of food. For a week in March, at the end of an Aussie summer, workplaces across Australia – big and small, and from every industry – are encouraged to gather their colleagues together for a tasty multicultural lunch.

Designed to coincide with Australia’s national Harmony Day,  A Taste of Harmony is a week-long campaign that uses the office lunch hour to celebrate the increasing cultural diversity of Australian workplaces

Employees bring in dishes that reflect either their cultural background or their favourite ethnic foods.  The result?  Colleagues and office mates are brought together to experience and enjoy new cultures, as well as raising office morale and contributing to a more engaged workforce.

Why it works

Susie Babani is Group Managing Director, Human Resources, at ANZ, someone who has always championed diversity issues, “…but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my career, it’s this – when you start to frame diversity in terms of its business benefits, you start to get momentum.’

The effective management of cultural diversity in the workplace helps Australian businesses maintain a competitive advantage and respond to the challenges of globalized markets and a changing customer base.  Research has found that diverse teams operating in inclusive workplaces are better at innovation, problem solving and creating new products.

For Peter Scanlon, of the Scanlon Foundation, the diversity advantage is also a national asset: “A Taste of Harmony gives all Australian businesses the opportunity to recognise and celebrate cultural diversity with the aim of achieving greater understanding and appreciation of what has, and continues to be a key strength of our nation.”

It’s hard to resist

Its a simple idea that’s having a big impact. More than 60,000 Australians shared diverse lunches in 2009, and 500 Australian businesses have already registered to participate in the 2010 campaign. It doesn’t hurt that top celebrity chefs are lining up to act as event ambassadors and provide inspiration… as well as online recipes.

Participation in A Taste of Harmony is free and simply requires workplaces to register online to receive a promotional package designed to help support individual events in the workplace and create a celebratory atmosphere for the lunch on the day. The pack contains a poster, napkins, balloons and table toppers and is supported by online ideas, feedback, downloads and games as well as a gallery of images from 2009.  The campaign website offers a database of recipes as well as the opportunity for feedback and connection.

Leading companies such as Deloitte, ANZ, Heinz, Australian Industry Group, Emcorp Solutions and Mitchell Communication Group have signed on as key sponsors and campaign champions. These are businesses that recognize a culturally diverse workforce helps interpret and meet the needs of a growing customer base in new and international markets. At ANZ bank, for example, workers represents 134 cultural backgrounds, speak 91 languages and follow 84 religions.

A Taste of Harmony is an initiative of The Scanlon Foundation, a philanthropic organisation dedicated to support the creation of a larger, cohesive Australian society.

Making it Work for You:

  • Simplicity is often the key to success: A Taste of Harmony makes it fun and easy to get involved, with spectacular nation-wide results
  • Challenge your colleagues to share a favourite recipe and learn to cook something new.
  • Celebrate diversity! Ask your colleagues to help create a list of all the nationalities in your office; encourage people to look back through generations of their family.
  • Office wide collaboration? or a bit of friendly competition? Encourage employees to share their recipes and turn the contributions into a workplace A Taste of Harmony recipe book.
  • Corporate sponsorship provides resources and helps create greater profile and impact. Are there neighbourhood events or local campaigns that could use a corporate boost?
  • Make your event sponsor into a campaign "ambassador" or "champion" to generate buzz and increase engagement.