Interactions with Australia’s High Commissioner to India

Sydney/11 October, 2017


Australian High Commissioner to India (New Delhi), Ms Harinder Sidhu, is in Australia presently.  She is here for the mid term consultations with the Government and various stakeholders. As part of these consultations, she met a select group of Indian Australian community representatives  These reps included people from various segments and faiths. 

An hour-long session in the DIBP offices in Parramatta gave an opportunity for all of us to understand and raise relevant issues. 

From Federation of Indian Associations of NSW (FIAN), Abhijeet Martand and I participated. Mr SK Verma participated  on behalf of the Consulate General of India in Sydney. 

We emphasized the role of Indian Australian community as the bridge between India and Australia and their usefulness in enhancing the relations between Australia and India. I pointed out how we (community) took up the matters during students’ troubles in 2009-10 and helped counter “Australia is racist” campaign by Indian media.  I reiterated that then Australian Government did not utilize the community meaningfully in countering the campaign by Indian media. 

Some wanted to be listed with the Govt agencies for people to contact them when needing help, but we expressed our strong view that no such listing etc should be done without involvement of, and vetting by, the Government agencies because some “leaders” are known to exploit our own people. 

The issue involving the visa for priests was raised. It was mentioned that the standard of English requirement is onerous and excessive.  I pointed out that the matter was also raised in the Q & A session with DIBP Assistant Minister, Alex Hawke, in a recent meeting organized by FIAN, and that it will be better if we work together and raise the matter with the Minister directory. The High Commissioner agreed that the matter is in the policy domain and will better be dealt with the Government. We have a plan to organize a meeting involving key stakeholders and then meet the DIBP Assistant Minister. 

Dr Yadu Singh 

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Why we don’t have India Cultural Centre (India House) in Sydney?

Sydney, NSW

29th April, 2016

I wrote a Blog post on India House on 4th May, 2013. https://yadusingh.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/india-house-in-sydney-what-is-this-about-why-do-we-need-it/.

Then I posted an update on this subject  on 31st Aug, 2014. https://yadusingh.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/india-house-in-sydney-update/

We backed out of this project because every group wanted to make India House. We therefore decided to let them do it and promised to support them. Nothing has happened, and nothing is likely to happen, unfortunately. Its a sad situation.

People I speak with agree that it will be great to have Indian Cultural Centre (India House) in Sydney. They all feel that it has not happened because of division in the community. We have too many associations and too many leaders, most of whom do not have substance, capability, networking and vision. Everyone wants to do the same things- in parallel, not together. To make it worse, we have too many “senior” and several “very senior” leaders (75 years plus) who have been around for 3-4 decades, without much productivity. They have become a big hindrance. They must be persuaded to retire and allow a fresh start. “Me too” syndrome is harming us all as a community in more ways than one.

Let us do a quick review.

The Indian Australian community in Australia comprises of about 500,000 people, out of which about 160,000 reside in New South Wales. Ours is a growing community and about half of our people have migrated to Australia during the last ten years.

Every community is unique and has its special characteristics and requirements.  In this sense, we are no different from the other multicultural communities in Australia.   Many of these requirements can be fulfilled by a Community Centre (India House), which acts not only as the centre for all community/social interactions and mentoring/guiding services, but also for entertainment activities.  Private family occasions like weddings and other events can also take place there.  Any such centre should have sufficient space and facilities to cater to a range of activities.  This Centre should be able to self-sustain financially, and should be run professionally.

Despite being a major community, we do not have this  community Centre, which is in total contrast with other communities like Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Serbian, Croatian and others, many of which are smaller than ours, but do have such community premises.

India House has been talked about for more than 25 years but nothing obviously has happened. Talks and visions should have moved to something realistic and something fruitful by now, but it is yet to happen. We believe that it did not happen only because serious and sincere efforts were never made, and people who talked about it lacked the vision and leadership. “Me too” syndrome  among associations and “leaders” have been the biggest obstacle.

Indian Consulate General in Sydney has a place where smaller events can be done in some circumstances but its space is limited and its situation in CBD is not all that convenient. It can not substitute India House. This place should be in the Western Sydney, where most of Indian Australians live.

Projects of this nature require huge capital to make it happen.  We strongly believe that finances can be raised if there is a group of dedicated & committed people in our community who have integrity, vision, determination, perseverance, willingness and capacity to work on the plan for 5-7 years. The fund raising components must have multiple components, and it should include fairs, charity drives, direct contributions from the community, and also sponsorships from governments and businesses.

Our initial spadework informs us that there is sufficient goodwill for this huge venture in our community. We recognise that the biggest hurdle in this huge task is the distrust community members have towards community groups/leaders because they have not been transparent, accountable and result oriented, and in fact, some have used their groups for financial benefits. To make it worse, some have become branches of political parties. It is a common knowledge that finances generated from events, small and large, have often been mismanaged and possibly misused. The fund sourcing process therefore must remain ethical, transparent and must be supervised by at least three reputed finance professionals. This fund-raising must have the charity status and tax concessions.

As I see it, there is a need for a nodal group of 20 key people who will do the initial work, using the expertise in law, planning, project work, finance, Real Estate, accounting and marketing among others. They will work without charging any remuneration.

This project would need meetings with community representatives/leaders, key members of Indian community and businessmen, and members of media with the purpose of brain storming, exchanging ideas, revising and fine tuning the project. Media is so essential for this project and this project will have to be an “inclusive” work as far as practicable.

The Project should be super headed by a management committee, Board of Trustees and Advisory Council, and will have membership with defined benefits of such membership. The guiding principle will and must always be transparency, accountability and proper governance with an added motto of “service with integrity”.

Can we expect our community groups to take this project earnestly and start the process afresh?  Can we make a fresh start?  Can we collaborate? My friends and I are happy to support a group of this nature and their work, provided this group has people with integrity, ability, capacity, networking and vision.  This is a project for the whole community. 

Leadership is open and available here.

Please come forward and show us the leadership.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/29th April, 2016

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