Riding on top of the waves – breaking down barriers to accessing mental health services.

The first Harmony Day was launched in 1999 by the then NSW MP Dr. Peter Wong. This was an initiative in respond to Pauline Hanson’s 1996 maiden speech at Parliament describing how Australia being ‘swamped’ by Asians.  According to the 2016 Census, nearly half (49 per cent) of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was. Mandarin came first as the most spoken language other than English.  Eighty-five per cent of Australians agree multiculturalism has been good for Australia (check out the Australian Bureau of Statistics website for more details).


In 2000 Ifirst watched the inspiring movie ‘Pay it Forward’ which was set in Las Vegas. The movie depicted the story of 11-year-old Trevor McKinney’s launch of a goodwill movement known as “pay it forward“.  When I was doing a research exchange at Yale (USA), some of my colleagues practised ‘pay it forward’ by paying for the bill of the next order in a ‘drive-in’ queue of a fast food outlet.  Last month, while I was looking for inspiration for the e-Newsletter, I came across a movement called launched by the Society of America Florists (SAF) in 2015.. Volunteers handed out bouquets of flowers to unsuspecting strangerswho are then encouraged to ‘pay it forward’ and give away another bouquet to pass on the kindness. What a great way to show compassion and spread joy!

It was encored the following year. The YouTube clip they posted on 2/11/2016 has gone viral and so far, has attracted around 230,000 views. If you take a look at the footage, at first some passers-by were hesitant to take the bouquets from the volunteers and some were puzzled and asked, ‘Why did you give me flowers?’ But soon  people happily took the bouquets – one for them to keep; one for them to ‘petal-it-forward’ to give to a friend, a neighbour or a stranger. Everyone felt so happy to embrace this joyful movement. This year on the 20th October will the 7th year SAF hosts this event. Given the isolation brought on by COVID-19, the 2021 event was needed more than ever. Florists in 44 states participated and shared joy during a challenging time while adapting their ‘petal it forwar activities to COVID-related restrictions.  

Martin Luther King Jr 1963

Since I learnt about this great initiative, I practised it myself. Due to the lockdown, I wasn’t able to visit the Flower Market in Flemington (far more than 5 km from Willoughby), I bought flowers from the local Fruit and Vege Shop which sold by bunches. I bought 3 different variety (one as focal flower, one as complementary flower and one as filler flower). I often had enough for 2 bouquets, one for myself and one to ‘Petal-it-Forward’! The joy or giving and receiving flowers have been shared by at the ‘Member’s Corner’ many times. When the lift of lockdown proceeds to Phase III – adults vaccination rates reached 90%, CFS will most likely to return to host our monthly ‘Pop-Up Stalls’! We will adapt this ‘Petal-it-Forward’ movement as ‘Buy-One-Give-One’ campaign. A customer buys a bouquet from CFS, we will give one extra for the customer to ‘Petal -it-Forward’!

A reader sharing her experience during the recent COVID-19 lockdown:

My mother was once an active gardener and has very fond memories. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we experienced challenging moments which to a certain degree have impacted on our mental health. The isolation due to lockdown made us realise it is through connecting with other people that our mental well-being is maintained.

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