Australia has a substantial numbers of people of Indian heritage. It is approximately >250000. With students from India, this goes above >350000. It is going to increase as Indians have formed a good chunk of the total Australian immigrants over the last several years.
One of the things we have seen lately is the fact that there are Indian functions almost every weekend. In Sydney alone, we have had 6 Diwali functions including a big Diwali fair in Parramatta stadium. This Hindu Council of Australia fair was impressive and the biggest fair for/by Indian community. This is great.
With increased numbers, problems faced by some of us have also increased. It is expected. There are some issues however which appear to be more pertinent for our community. Students’ issues is one such example. There is a large number of ex-students who are in a bridging visa and are in fact in a limbo as the processing of their applications has not been progressing.
Negative portrayal of Australia by Indian media last year was often hysterical and imbalanced. This was not fair. Issues were there but the manner of coverage was not right. There were heaps of leaders issuing a variety of views which were often conflicting. One leader had a habit of calling every incident as a racist incident without even waiting for full evidence. This type of reporting has a potential to create a backlash against Indian Australian community. I am not denying that there were serious issues in regards to Indian students and Indian media, in fact, helped bring them to fore-front but exaggerated and imbalanced coverage in many cases and overuse of racism word was not helpful. A segment of Indian media literally branded Australia to be a racist country without bothering to check the basis or the facts for that claim.
With the issues created by some students ie documentary frauds, contract marriages and crimes committed by them, the reputation and image of Indian community has had a significant hit. This needs to be tackled too. We have to live and work here and our community can’t afford to have a negative image. Our image of a community of educated people with a relatively much less crime needs to be restored and enhanced.
There are several issues which our community must deal with. Helping new arrivals by mentoring is one of the things which we will need to do as a community. Helping new arrivals to integrate well is a very important mentoring job. Domestic violence and exploitation of our people, often by our own people, must be tackled.
There are issues between Australia and India. The classical one is about the sale of Australian Uranium to India which current Gov does not want to do. We obviously want to see that happen. Non-signatory status of India for NPT has no significance after India was given the India-specific NSG exemption last year with an active support from Australia. India also has a clean record on nuclear non-proliferation.
There are obviously several issues and I have mentioned only a few.
When educated Indian Australians with vision talk about the community issues, they do talk about the need for a national body which can take up the issues which have a national significance for the community. While doing so, they also talk about the mushrooming of “community leaders” every where, many of whom do not have an idea of conflict of interest. Many such “leaders” do not have the pre-requisite for the leadership role. Such national body must be able to work in a co-operative fashion with Indian/Australian Gov agencies including Indian consulates and the High Commission, and business-focused bodies such as AIBC.
We need genuine associations of Indian Australians which can tackle the problems of the community in a genuine way. These associations need to be pan-Indian in outlook and should not have a linguistic or regional outlook, focusing on the language spoken at home or the place of origin in India as the basis for the organisation.
We really have far too many associations and far too many “leaders”. Leaders of all associations must move on after serving for a maximum of two years. It is not a good idea for these “leaders” to use associations as a place for retirement activities. It is totally ridiculous to see “leaders” who are in their late 70s or 80s when they are clearly unable to grasp the situation and needs of our community. Respecting our seniors is one thing [and I too respect them] but that does not mean that we have to put up with their inefficient or inappropriate leadership. Issues of Year 2010 need leaders who can understand them and can do something about them. Our elder leaders [late 70s and 80s], if they have a burning desire to do community work, can do a great job by being the mentors and guides for the younger leaders. Their experience can be invaluable.
All such organisations must work in a transparent fashion. Indian ethnic media needs to do their genuine job to ensure that associations and leaders are doing the right job. Forming alliances with associations/leaders is not a good idea. This is a problem area.
We really need genuine leaders for our community and such leaders must be those who have;
- vision and credibility
- capacity to lead
- ability to communicate with Gov authorities and people
- ability to network and communicate with media
- capacity to understand “conflict of interest” and practise it
- capacity to follow the principles of transparency and accountability
- capacity to lead by examples ie can be role models
Being “leaders” for photo ops and doing Melas [Fairs] only is not going to help! Taking commissions for their “leadership” is an absolute NO.
Some discussions are going on in these regards and an outcome is expected soon, hopefully.
One must not forget that we have literally hundreds if not thousands of “associations” most of which are essentially pocket associations of our “leaders”. We can see how/why associations-based federation[association of association] at the national level will be a failure from the day one. It should therefore be an organisation based on individual membership, taken from the people who fulfill criterion explained above.
Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/14th Nov, 2010