Communal stalwart Ernie Friedlander received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2022 Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) NSW Humanitarian Awards held at Government House last Tuesday.
The honour recognises Friedlander, a Holocaust survivor who has worked tirelessly over many years to give back to society and make a contribution to many facets of life in Australia, for his lifelong dedication to ending racism and pursuing social harmony. The awards are co-presented by the Refugee Council of Australia.
Friedlander established Moving Forward Together (MFT) in 2004, a social initiative focused on building connections between multicultural communities to work towards a unified, inclusive society.
“I’m trying to do the best I can … I must be crazy, to do all the things that I am doing at my age, but I think it’s important,” he reflected.
“There’s so much work to be done … Unfortunately, there’s a lot of complacency and many issues which need to be dealt with, but we need to make a concerted effort to make the maximum impact, and that’s what’s needed.”
Commenting on increased racism towards minority groups since the COVID-19 pandemic, Friedlander said, “It’s no good to dwell on the past … [rather] we need to work together to see the benefit for all of having an inclusive, harmonious society.
“We have to get people to realise the benefit of cooperation and taking hate out of their language.”
The Schools’ Poster and Song Writing competition, developed by Friedlander, is one of the largest school-based initiatives in Australia.
The Stop Racism Now AU campaign, launched in 2021, reached 1.4 million individuals across the country, while the initiative’s Harmony Walks continue to attract thousands of participants.