Christchurch-born Yasmeen Khurshid is a product of cultural harmony.
Her Kiwi Christian mother and Pakistani Muslim father first met in New Zealand before moving to Mildura when Yasmeen was aged three.
Her parents were married in the Al Noor mosque, one of two places of worship targeted in last Friday’s abhorrent terror attack.
Yasmeen, who is the president of the Mildura Students’ Association, was on campus when she first heard about the tragedy.
Her thoughts immediately turned to family and friends who still lived in Christchurch.
She soon learned three of her family’s loved ones were killed, while another five remain in hospital, in a critical condition.
Today, on Harmony Day, Yasmeen reflected on the importance of people coming together, regardless of their racial backgrounds or religious beliefs.
“It’s about making an effort, and having the true intention, to live harmoniously with people from different ways of life,” she said.
“The world is just getting smaller and smaller, and it’s only going to become more important to be able to do that.”
The Mildura campus marked Harmony Day this year with a minute’s silence for the victims of the Christchurch atrocity, as well as the countless other people affected by the senseless crime.
Yasmeen said it was an emotional, but important, moment.
“It shows that the community can come together and make a change,” she said.
“It sets a standard and an example for others to follow.”
Support from the La Trobe community made the tragedy of the last week easier to bear for her and other affected students, Yasmeen said.
“I’ve always felt welcome and supported here.
“Small towns get stereotyped for being closed-minded, but never in Mildura.”
She paid tribute to her parents, who she credits with instilling in her a respect for people of all backgrounds.
“When my parents met, it was really hard for them, so they’ve always told us that you don’t have to agree with everyone, but you must always be kind,” she said.
In the wake of the Christchurch terror attack, La Trobe Acting Vice-Chancellor Kerri-Lee Krause, reiterated the University’s commitment to cultural and religious diversity.
“This appalling attack will only serve to further unite us and strengthen our respect and tolerance for people from all faiths, cultures and backgrounds,” Professor Krause said.
She also encouraged anyone in the La Trobe community impacted by the tragedy to seek help from the University’s support services.