SPEECH ON THE SUBCONTINENTAL COMMUNITY IN NEW SOUTH WALES

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I recently gave a speech in the Legislative Council on a Private Members Motion congratulating the sub-continental community on the enormous contributions that they have made to New South Wales through hard work and determination for a better life. 

In doing so, I also paid tribute in particular to the Indian communities in South-West and Western Sydney and their local members Melanie Gibbons MP and Dr Geoff Lee MP, who are both doing an incredible job engaging, representing and embracing the wonderfully complex diversity of those parts of Sydney.

I also highlighted the importance of events like Parramasala and Starry Sari Night which underpin the good faith that we have built with the diverse communities in our State. They also help others of non-subcontinental backgrounds to understand and share in all that the subcontinent has to offer.

I look forward to events like Parramasala in 2017 and hope that the future holds even greater diversity and cultural offering from all those who look to make New South Wales their home.

 

 

FROM HANSARD:

The Hon. SHAYNE MALLARD ( 11:04 ): I support the motion of the Hon. Peter Primrose to acknowledge and recognise the enormous contributions that those of subcontinental heritage have made to New South Wales through hard work and determination for a better life, in particular their contribution to the economic, social, educational and cultural wellbeing of our State. I also pay tribute in particular to the Indian communities in south-west Sydney in the Liverpool and Holsworthy electorates. Holsworthy has a fantastic local member in Melanie Gibbons, MP, who is doing a great job engaging, representing and embracing the wonderfully complex diversity of that region.

In the 2006 census, 147,106 Australian residents declared that they were born in India, of whom 79,025 held Australian citizenship. New South Wales has the largest number of Indian-born residents—57,000. Nationally, 64,968 Indian Australians declared they were Hindu, 49,975 declared they were Christian and 26,500 declared they were Sikh. In addition to those who were born in India, a significant number of Australians identify as having Indian ancestry, either alone or in combination with another ancestry. This community has more than doubled between 2004 and 2009 to more than 300,000, and it will be interesting to see what the most recent census reveals about the size of the community now in New South Wales and Australia.

As well as the Indian community there is also a significant number of Fijian Indians who have been migrating to Australia since the 1960s. As members may recall, in 1987 a racially inspired military coup saw many Fijian Indians leave Fiji for Australia, having seen little future in staying in that country, and Australia and New South Wales are much richer for that migration. Many of those Fijian Indians now live in the electorate of Holsworthy, which, as I said earlier, is proudly represented by Melanie Gibbons. I know that Melanie regards the Fijian Indian population as an important part of her work in the area, noting that they represent the largest single migrant cultural group in the area.

Liverpool in particular, for which Melanie partially has responsibility, is the capital of Sydney for the Fijian, Indian and Fijian Indian communities. It is notable that George Street in Liverpool has, at last count, 29 sari stores where colourful saris can be purchased from as little as $5 up to $50,000. It is a fact that after arriving in New South Wales many Indians make a beeline for Liverpool to go sari shopping before they go anywhere else. When I was assisting Melanie, one of the first things I did was take her there to buy a sari for her so we could be appropriately attired for many cultural events. Great fun. The Fijian, Indian and Fijian Indian community in Liverpool are extremely open about sharing their culture with the rest of the city, the State and the country.

On 5 September this year the annual festival of Ganeshotsava was held in Blacktown. Previous festivals have been held in Liverpool. The festival is hosted by Friends of India, which is based primarily in the Liverpool area. The event celebrates the Hindu deity Lord Ganesh, a god who helps in overcoming obstacles—a god I think we could all appreciate on occasions. The Liverpool version of the celebration involves a large procession—more than 5,000 people generally attend—to the main stage in Macquarie Street mall, and there is an incredible amount of colour, dancing, singing and laughter, and great numbers of adults and children.

I have attended the event in the past, as has Melanie, and last year's event was also attended by the mayor and councillors of Liverpool City Council. Attendees then headed to a makeshift pond at Chipping Norton where, as part of the ritual, people placed statues made of clay as an offering to Lord Ganesh. This was the third year the event had been hosted by Liverpool City Council to celebrate Indian culture in the area and it was a huge success. It featured many different attractions, including a best curry competition, Indian food stalls and a sari fashion show, and the main attraction was Brett Lee who was there to showcase his new Indian-Australian film UnIndian.

I have it on good authority that the quality of the curries tasted in the competition was excellent and in fact many of the Indian restaurants in the Liverpool area are award-winning restaurants and well worth visiting. The day culminates in an event called Starry Sari Night, which was created by Liverpool City Council three or four years ago, including a huge film festival on Macquarie Street. In 2015 the Liverpool Leader described the event as follows:

A SEA of subcontinental colours and sounds transformed Liverpool's George and Scott streets into a sight reminiscent of the most celebrated Bollywood movies when the Starry Sari Night festival was celebrated on Sunday.

More than 6000 people from the area and Sydney flooded the city centre for Liverpool's biggest cultural celebration.

The event was jam-packed with fun activities ranging from the Starry Curry Competition to the fashion showcase, Bollywood dancing and even film screenings.

Pooja Priyanka [an acclaimed Australian film director] helped mark a great festival calling it an "incredible day".

The sad thing is that last year Liverpool City Council cancelled the funding for the Starry Sari Night festival so it was not able to take place this year. It only requires funding of $60,000 to $80,000 so I call on the council to restore funding for this extremely popular festival.

[Interruption]

Labor and Independents cancelled it; the Liberal ones wanted to keep the funding going—I do not want to get too political. The new council must restore the funding that Labor councillors took away from Starry Sari Night as it is a great event and it should be restored. Liverpool also plays host to Fiji Day, which is usually held at Bulldog Park. Fijians in the area also hold an annual golf tournament, which is used to raise funds for work done with youth in the Fijian community. As with many migrant communities, celebrations like this are also opportunities to raise money to support family and community back home. Many of the stallholders at the golf tournament were fundraising for charity on the evening to send money back to Fiji in the wake of natural disasters.

It also goes without saying that even the most established migrants retain an interest in the politics of their land of origin and how could Indians in Australia not, with the success of Narendra Modi's Sydney visit in 2014. Members will recall Allphones Arena was packed with 16,000 cheering Modi and eight Indian television broadcasters covering the event. The Indian Prime Minister's appearance was preceded by an elaborate stage show of costumed dancers and thundering traditional beats from a Campbelltown-based Indian drumming group.

The event was well supported by the New South Wales Government, with Premier Mike Baird, former Premier Barry O'Farrell, as well as Melanie Gibbons, Dr Geoff Lee, Tanya Davies, Matt Kean, Minister Dominello, Minister John Ajaka, Kevin Conolly, Minister David Elliott and Mark Taylor all attending the show, amongst others. All these members obviously have significant Indian communities in their electorates but perhaps the most notable in terms of cultural clout is the Indian community in Parramatta, which organises Parramasala on an annual basis. Parramasala has been going since 2010 and is one of the largest multicultural festivals in New South Wales with music, art, dance, food and much more.

Dr Geoff Lee, the member for Parramatta, is rightly proud of the work the Indian community is doing to embrace the diversity that Parramatta has to offer. Part of that is organising events such as Parramasala to share the Indian cultural offering with the rest of the community. Geoff Lee has lobbied hard for Multicultural NSW funding to ensure certainty for Parramasala, and Minister Ajaka would be aware of that. The community's efforts have been rewarded with a $1.6 million commitment over four years by the Minister for Multiculturalism, the Hon. John Ajaka, in June this year. On the day of the funding announcement Dr Lee said:

It's a sensational outcome not just for Parramatta but for all of Western Sydney. Lots of people talk about multiculturalism but we live and breathe it every day.

In 2017 Parramasala is moving to Multicultural March. The festival will be held on Friday 10 March, Saturday 11 March and Sunday 12 March 2017. I am reliably informed that the festival in 2017 will be bigger and better than ever before. I digress from Parramasala to talk about a friend of mine, Dr Harry Harinath, OAM, Chair of Multicultural NSW—a great appointment. I first met Dr Harry at South Sydney Council when I was elected in 2000. From that day until minutes ago when he texted me, he has always had multicultural New South Wales in Australia foremost in his activities. He is in possession of a bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi that was a gift from the Indian Government and he is looking for a home for that statue. I support approaches to have that statue located in Sydney's central business district, perhaps in the Royal Botanic Gardens or The Domain, to support the subcontinental community and their desire to have a tribute to the great leader.

It is time that the monuments in our cities did not just reflect our colonial history, important as that is, but reflect also our contemporary multicultural history. If a community desires a statue of a great leader such as Mahatma Gandhi—and there is one in Parliament Square, Westminster—then that should be accommodated. It would be a place of great celebration for the Indian community so I support Dr Harry and hope he has success. Another part of the subcontinental presence in New South Wales is the Indian media. It is not uncommon to walk through streets in the suburbs of Sydney such as Liverpool and Parramatta where every newsagent and Indian-associated shop has on its doorstop copies of the magazines and newspapers of their community. Indian Link is the most popular.

Following developments in new media Indian Link also has a strong online presence; there is a huge online presence for the subcontinental community. The Minister regularly appears on the front page of the newspaper. In 2015 at the Premier's Multicultural Media Awards Indian Link won the Premier's Best Print Publication of the Year award—a great achievement. Indian Link is perhaps the best example of what we have seen widely across the subcontinental community in Australia—a willingness to embrace Australia and a receptive audience that is willing to return the favour.

Having a passion for media and their country of origin, in 1994 Pawan and Rajni Luthra had a vision and combined the two, starting the Indian Linknewspaper. They feel that helping the Indian community integrate into the Australian way of life is an important part of living here. At the same time their media group is aimed at helping Australians understand the Indian culture and beliefs but always with the focus of embracing the best of Indian and Australian ethos. It is growing in its scope and influence and, as the founders like to say:

Indian Link Media Group is now more than a voice for the community, it's a vehicle for change and a voyage of discovery.

It is printed in English and has also extended its arms to Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth with separate monthly additions. Indian Linkhas a print run of 4,000 per month with an estimated readership of over 160,000 per edition. In 2002 Indian Link Radio was launched, the first 24/7 Indian radio station to be broadcast in Sydney and Melbourne. It is a subscription-based radio with a strong following throughout the Indian-Australian community. There are over 20,000 listeners to the station and the website has over 10,000 hits per month.

The Indian Link story is an important one to reflect on as it demonstrates what we in this Parliament should admire most about our multicultural State and the subcontinental community. With strong local patrons like Geoff Lee and Melanie Gibbons working with migrant communities, both new and old, we can live in a prosperous, democratic, harmonious society that some countries have dismissed as a pipedream; we embrace it wholeheartedly. With events like Ganeshotsava, Parramasala and others, we will see this trend continuing. It is extremely important that we continue to support these events; they underpin the good faith that we have built with significant communities in our State. They also help others of non-subcontinental backgrounds to understand and share in all that the subcontinent has to offer. I look forward to events like Parramasala in 2017 and hope that the future holds even greater diversity and cultural offering from all those who look to make New South Wales their home. They are welcome to do so.