Barry O’Farrell is the perfect man for Australia-India Council

Sydney, NSW 10th June, 2015

Barry O'FarrellI am happy to know that Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, has appointed Barry O’Farrell, former Premier of NSW, as the Deputy Chairman of Australia-India Council (AIC) Board, which operates under Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

AIC details: http://dfat.gov.au/people-to-people/foundations-councils-institutes/australia-india-council/Pages/australia-india-council.aspx

AIC’s tasks include:

  • raise awareness of Australia in India, and of India in Australia in a way that encourages further growth in relations between the two countries, including in the trade and investment relationship
  • promote exchange and collaboration between Australian and Indian organisations in fields of relevance to the bilateral strategic partnership
  • deliver high quality programs that demonstrate Australia’s economic credentials and technical excellence to influential audiences in India
  • seek community involvement in, and private sector support for, the Council’s diplomacy efforts including by encouraging corporate investment in collaborations that advance Australia India relations
  • publicise the Council’s activities as a means of encouraging broad support for the Council’s role and the bilateral relationship

AIC Board is currently chaired by Ashok Jacob (Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Ellerston Capita, and Director of Crown Ltd). Other members of AIC include Prof Robyn Batterham (University of Melbourne), Mr Michael Kasprowicz (Former Test Cricketer), Neema Premji (Director of Premji Board Consultancy and Management Services), Payal Mahendroo (Australia India Youth Dialogue) and Sheba Nandkeolyar (AIBC).

Barry retired from NSW Parliament at the March 2015 election for NSW Parliament, after been an MP since 1995 and NSW Premier between 2011-2014. He led annual Trade delegations to India since 2011 and has significant connections in India and Indian community in NSW. He expertise in Australia India matters is second to none.

Let us hope that relations (Political and Trade) between Australia and India pick up speed and reach a new height, with Barry’s joining of AIC Board.

Dr Yadu Singh

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Politics, political parties and Indian Australian community!

 

Sydney, 1st Sept, 2014Australian Flag

There are over 150,000 people of Indian heritage in NSW and 500,000 people Australia wide. Ours is an increasingly important community politically. In Western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, there are constituencies, where Indian Australians constitute more than 10% of total votes. Our votes can decide the outcome in many marginal seats.

It is no wonder that political parties are reaching out to Indian Australian community actively. It started with Parliamentary friends of India during previous NSW Govts led by Nathan Rees/Kristina Keneally, followed by Liberal Friends of India formed about one year ago. Similar groupings are in existence federally and Victoria in one or the other form.

While there is no doubt that we are important electorally, the thrust from political parties has been to deal with us only symbolically, not substantially. Except for the recent pre-selection of an Indian Australian in Seven Hills seat, there is no sign of any efforts from any political party to preselect anyone from our community for any of safe seats. If any of us is ever preselected, it is generally for those seats where there is no chance of us winning. ALP’s Harmohan Walia contesting a safe Liberal seat of Mitchell some years ago and inclusion of Bhupinder Chhibber in the Senate list from ALP last year, albeit at a lower and unwinnable spot, are two classical examples. There was no chance of them winning. Similar examples are there from Liberal side too. These are examples of tokenism.

Over the years, our community dynamics have been changing. Indians have been migrating to Australia in big numbers. India has been the top source of migrants over the last few years. Many of us have been joining political parties too, but still not in sufficient numbers.

Prior to 1990s, Indians were big on supporting ALP. Smart marketing and outreach by ALP created an impression that ALP was more favourable and friendly to ethnic migrants. Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, were liked by Indians and other ethnic communities. Liberal Party leader, John Howard, before he became the Prime Minister, had the baggage of his comment against Asian migration in 1980s, which created some significant concerns regarding his stand towards ethnic migrants. It lingered on even after he admitted that his statement was a mistake. Unfortunately, this impression became further re-enforced in our minds when we saw the excessively harsh commentary, actions and sanctions by Australia against India after 1998 nuclear tests. Indian army officers were expelled from Australia overnight. The tone and the contents of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer’s statements were particularly terse. It created a serious damage to India-Australia relations. Things changed quite favourably for Liberal party though when PM John Howard declared that Australia would sell Uranium to India in 2007, while ALP persisted with its policy of ban to sell Uranium to India, until Martin Ferguson and PM Gillard led campaign to reverse the ban succeeded at the end of 2012.

Today, there are almost equal supporters in our community for ALP and Liberal Party, although ALP supporters may have an edge. This support has been determined by variety of factors, which did include Uranium issue in the past. With changed dynamics of our community now however, economic management, policy on asylum seekers and business-friendly policies are playing a big role in our attitudes towards political parties. Quite a good number of our people are in small businesses. Younger members of our community are driven more by market economy than socialist ideas. After all, India has been an open and market-based economy since 1991, which has exposed our younger people, before they migrated, to market and open economy.

ALP and our community: There is a significant contingent of ALP supporters in our community, based largely in Western suburbs. They take part in ALP-supporting events through the year and during elections. ALP Premiers used to take some community members with them while taking trade delegations to India, thus giving an impression of inclusion. Subcontinent Friends of Labor was an initiative from NSW ALP HQ, which was provided full support by ALP top leaders to make it known and popular in the community. Grants to various temples and community groups was one of the strategy to win support. This has its advantages and disadvantages. This group is not as strong now as it was during ALP Govts in NSW and Canberra for obvious reasons. Its biggest drawback was its attempts to go against some sub-continental candidates like Susai Benjamin, as part of Right faction Vs Left faction battle. This was seen too during Bill Shorten Vs Anthony Albanese ALP leadership contest last year. This was not smart by any means, because it weakened and divided ALP members from Indian sub-continent significantly. On the positive side, ALP at least in NSW has a better strategy to communicate its stands and policies by emails to not only ALP members, but also other community members who are not ALP members. As Indians constitute a very big proportion of Indian sub-continental people in NSW and since interests of India are quite different from interests of other countries in the Indian sub-continent, it is preferable, in my view, to go for Labor Friend of India. Utopian socialist idea of Indian sub-continental unity or brotherhood is a myth, impractical and is never going to work.

Liberal Party and our Community: Prior to 2011 NSW State elections, then Leader of Opposition, Barry O’Farrell, was seen literally in every community event, but it changed dramatically once Liberal Party formed the Govt. Premier, Barry O’Farrell chose to rely only on one Indian who, in effect, had hardly any networking within the community, and did not help Liberals get many votes. Until election, he was virtually unknown. Indians were perplexed why he was being promoted on behalf of Liberal Govt in NSW. Premier O’Farrell ignored even Australia India Business Council (AIBC) when visiting India with trade delegations. Our community formed a clear and wide-spread perception that Indian community was actively distanced from NSW Govt either as a default or design. It indeed caused a substantial ill-feeling towards Liberal Party and NSW Govt. This was conveyed to local MPs, but they were either unwilling or, more likely, unable to do anything about it due to the fact that everything was driven from the former Premier’s office. Current Premier, Mike Baird, is much more inclusive, which is a welcome change and is already generating some goodwill. A lot more however needs to be done to overcome the damage. Time only will tell whether there is a real directional change under current Premier. Liberal Friends of India (LFI) is a good initiative but it has lost its charm or the enthusiasm lately. It needs to be reinvigorated. There was a time when  we saw one more body of the similar type with the name of  “Liberal friends of the subcontinent”  doing some events in Western Sydney. This created some considerable confusion. I am not sure what is IRS status now. LFI also needs participation from top ministers and must allow membership of even those community members who are Liberal-minded but are not members of Liberal party. It should not just be a mechanism to raise funds for the party. Its Chairman should be a key Minister with Executive Committee comprising of key Liberal-inclined community members, irrespective of their Liberal Party membership status. LFI needs to be reformed and relaunched.

Parramasala, an initiative of Keneally NSW Labor Govt, is indeed a good idea, and I am happy to see that current Liberal NSW Govt has decided to continue funding it. I went to its launch only a few days ago, and noticed things which could have been done better. Ministerial Consultative Committee (MCC) for Indian community has been dissolved, like other MCCs, but there is a need to have some form of Advisory Body from our community for regular consultations, discussions and interactions between our community and the Govt.

NSW Friends of India: Like USA and some European countries, there is a need for such groups in Australia. It should be a bipartisan phenomenon, with key ministers, MPs, journalists, businesses and community members, with year-round activities involving lectures, debates and discussions. A group like this may not get enthusiastic support from the Govt, but we, as the community, should push for it. After all, there are bonafide pro-India people in all political parties, businesses and media.

Our community’s participation: It is also true that many of us do not join political parties in sufficient numbers. This should change. Australia is our country too, and we ought to take part in its processes in all shapes and forms. We get a chance to do so pretty actively if we are part of political parties. Only then, we will be able to go for pre-selections and elections to reach Parliaments. After all, quota system is not a good idea generally, and it is better to compete fairly and frankly. If we are not inclined to join main political parties, we can consider forming or being a part of issues-based groups like “Voice of the West” focusing on Western suburbs to advance our political interests and ideas.

While at it, it will not be out of place to point out that we need to interact, collaborate and network with  members irrespective of their party or political affiliations and inclinations, when it comes to our common interests for the community. Just because someone is a member of ALP or Liberal party does not mean he or she is an enemy for those who are in opposing camps. There is no need or justification to badmouth or run an undermining campaign only because of someone’s political affiliation or inclination.

An edited version of my write-up was published by The Indian Sun newspaper recently. (http://www.theindiansun.com.au/top-story/australian-political-parties-indian-community/)

 

Dr Yadu Singh

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Why Western Sydney needs an Airport at Badgerys Creek?

Image

(Pic courtesy Daily Telegraph Newspaper)

Does Sydney need a second airport, and if yes, where?

This debate has been going on for decades. It is about time that Govt starts a real action.

Kingsford Smith Airport (KSA) will not be able to provide new slots for any airline beyond 2027, while number of passengers will keep growing. 87 million passengers are expected to use KSA by 2035, and these numbers will double by 2060. The capacity deficit in landing slots beyond 2027 will adversely impact NSW/Australian economy. $60 billion is the cost by 2060 due to capacity constraints at KSA.

Capacity constraints can be ameliorated to some extent if landing/taking off curfew at KSA between 11PM to 6AM can be relaxed or removed. This is not practical because this curfew is part of an Act, and it will not be allowed by people living near KSA.

This is thus clear that Sydney needs a second airport. There is no further capacity at 900 ha KSA to build new runways or extend its operation.

Badgerys Creek, a 1700 ha land in South West Sydney, can be a good site for second airport. The land is owned by Commonwealth, and has been meant to be used for 2nd airport. It was acquired wayback in 1986-91. Wilton near Campbelltown is not as good a site as Badgerys Creek is, because it will require much bigger cost in building an airport and the associated infrastructure. Badgerys Creek can be built and be in operation in 10 years, while Wilton will take 17 years.

Badgerys Creek is therefore the only realistic site at present for Sydney’s second airport.

Studies have shown that an airport in Western Sydney will generate 28000 jobs by 2050, and add billions to the economy. It will supercharge the economy in Western Sydney.

Western Sydney has higher unemployment rates, and there are pockets where upto 30% are unemployed.

It is expected that here will be 500,000 job deficit in Western Sydney by 2050.

Western Sydney needs major infrastructure projects to turbo-charge economy and create jobs.

An airport in Badgerys Creek is definitely one such infrastructure. An airport alone somewhere in the middle of paddock in Western Sydney will not be enough. The region needs road and rail network, linking it with South West Rail link and possibly NW Rail Link. Roads in the region will need to upgraded and linked with M4, M5 and M7. It will cost money, which needs to come from Federal and State funding. That is where it becomes necessary for Commonwealth and NSW Govt to work co-operatively for the sake of Western Sydney region and its residents.

Western Sydney can’t be ignored because its people are not second class, and it is the engine-head of NSW economy. Recent survey has suggested its economic growth to be far superior to North Sydney and Sydney CBD. Some area within Western Sydney had economic growth rate above 6%, while CBD grew by about 1% only.

NSW economy needs Western Sydney!

Recent surveys have found that majority of people in Western Sydney support an airport in Western Sydney. Many councils including Liverpool Council and Holroyd Council are sympathetic to Badgerys Creek Airport.

NSW ALP and its leader, John Robertson, and federal ALP Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, are in support. Deputy PM, Warren Truss, Treasurer, Joe Hockey, and PM, Tony Abbott, are in support for the second airport. There appears to be a bipartisan support federally. Mulgoa MP, Mrs Tanya Davies, is in support. Penrith Council Mayor is sympathetic. Many federal MPs like Craig Lundy and Alex Hawke are supporting it, but others like Fiona Scott, Chris Bowen and Ed Husic are apparently opposed to it.

People living in Western Sydney will need to lobby their State and Federal MPs, and local Councils to get them behind an airport in Western Sydney.

Initially, NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell was against such airport, and was in favour of extension/upgrade of Canberra airport  for this purpose, but this proposition is not being favoured by anyone, because of distance and $8-10 billion cost in providing a high-speed rail between Canberra and Sydney.

It is about time that leaders from all persuasions and all tiers of Govt start working co-operatively for the interest of Western Sydney region and its residents!

I see merit in the demands of Western Sydney Airport Alliance, asking for a definitive announcement of Badgerys Creek Airport soon (if we want aeroplanes to start Flying from Badgerys Creek Airport by 2027), establishing a dedicated “Western Sydney Airport Authority” and starting community awareness/consultation about technical aspects of the airport, not the site per se.

Badgerys Creek is practically and realistically the only site for an airport in Western Sydney.

To avoid any political implication for any Party, let there be a bipartisan announcement from leaders which should include Prime Minister, NSW Premier, Leader of Federal Opposition, and Leader of NSW Opposition.

Dr Yadu Singh/5th March, 2014

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Multiculturalism in Australia: what it means to me

Multiculturalism in Australia: what it means to me

Australia is a great place where one can meet people from all backgrounds, cultures and religions. They can enjoy food from diverse backgrounds-Indian, Chinese, Italian, Sri Lankan, Thai and many more, including, of course, Australian.

People can and do enjoy festivals from diverse backgrounds. I myself have participated in events and festivals from Chinese, Philippines, Pakistani, Arabic and of course Indian backgrounds. I enjoyed Chinese Opera and a performance by Shen Yun cultural group immensely. I remember the “Nagar Kirtan” by Sikh community with fondness and enjoyed walking with the crowd from Circular Quay to Martin Place in Sydney. I also remember with fondness my participation in various Hindu religious festivals in either various temples and even in Darling Harbour. These events were organised without any disturbance or incidents.

Increasing number of people from diverse backgrounds take part in national activities. Only yesterday [4th March, 2012], I took part in “Clean Up Australia Day” activities with my friends from Basava and Tamil backgrounds, led by Basava Samithi [an Indian group] and Australian Tamil Association [another Indian group] respectively.

People can see movies and functions from various cultural backgrounds in the national TV. SBS TV helps us share diverse cultures and celebrations in so many ways.

It is such a fun living in Australia. Australia is a success story of multiculturalism.

I am therefore a strong proponent of multiculturalism in Australia. It benefits not only people from diverse backgrounds, but also Australia as a nation.

Australia is truly a multicultural nation. One in four Australian was born overseas and 44% of 22 million [9.68 million] Australians were either born overseas or one of their parents was born overseas. We speak 260 languages and identify with 270 ancestries. This is an amazing statistics!

With well more than 100000 people coming to Australia through migration programme every year, this will continue to benefit Australia for a long time. With growing numbers of aging population, migration programme is crucial for Australian economy as it provides skilled people which Australia needs for its economy and service sector

Multiculturalism has been in the news lately, specially after the certain events were reported from France and Europe generally. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s statement that multiculturalism has failed in Germany has been widely reported.

Despite this, I believe that multiculturalism in Australia is unique and  is the right policy. European examples are not applicable to Australia.

Its importance can be judged by this little example. Previously, Dept of Immigration used to be called Department of Immigration and Multicultural affairs [DIMA] which later became Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous affairs [DIMIA]. It was later changed to Department of Immigration and Citizenship [DIAC] a few years ago and “Multicultural Affairs” was dropped. While Chris Bowen is still the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, I am pretty happy to note that the word “Multicultural Affairs” has been restored in so as Kate Lundy has the portfolio of Minister for Multicultural Affairs.

What does Multiculturalism mean?

It basically means;

1. Recognition and respect for cultural diversity of Australian people, within the overall framework of general Australian values.

2. Non-discriminatory Immigration policy which encourages people with the right mix of skills to migrate and then acquire citizenship with the pledge of loyalty to Australia and its people, uphold its laws and democracy and respect for our rights and liberties.

3. Non-discriminatory opportunities for everyone to achieve the best for themselves irrespective of race, gender, religion or other criterion.

It must be understood that Australian values will always be superior if there is any clash between the cultural practices, values and ideas and Australian values. Australian values of democracy, justice, equality, rule of law and tolerance will always remain supreme.

English will always be the national language with encouragement to learn it. Other languages including the languages which people identify as a part of their heritage will be encouraged but they will not be a substitute for English.

It is generally accepted that a full sense of belonging to any society or nation is achieved only if people are encouraged to participate, without any hindrance or discrimination. People who are encouraged to migrate can’t be treated as “guest workers”, with obstacle in their ways to prevent them from availing opportunities and participating meaningfully.

Despite some commentary in the media that some migrants want to change Australia, instead of adapting to the Australian values, I believe that it is generally an exaggerated account and and not true. An overwhelming majority of people, if not all, who come to Australia come here only because Australia is a better nation with better opportunities, and not to change Australia to suit their values or ideas.

Multiculturalism encourages participation which in turn promotes a sense of belonging. That, in turn, promotes a better citizenship, better society and of course, a better Nation, where “Take and Give” is accepted as a better and a noble notion, instead of “Take and Take”.

Everyone needs to contribute to the nation building to make Australia a better nation than it already is. That of course is only possible if their culture and heritage is valued, within the overall frame of Australian values, if opportunities are available without any discrimination, and if people are encouraged to achieve their best without any hindrance in doing so. Only then they will be able to contribute to the nation meaningfully.

Recognizing this, Australian Govt has constituted Australian Multicultural Council [AMC] with the mandate to advise the Govt for these matters, which, indeed, is a good step at the federal level.

At the state levels too, multiple steps have been taken to implement the policies in regards to multiculturalism. In NSW,  Minister Victor Dominello [Minister for Citizenship, Communities and Aboriginal Affairs] and Community Relations Commission [Chairman and CEO, Stepan Kerkyasharian] have the overall responsibilities for policies in these matters. By constituting Ministerial Consultative Committees [MCC] for various multicultural communities to advise NSW Govt, Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister Victor Dominello have done a commendable job in this direction.

There is a role for everyone, not just political leaders and People of Australia Ambassadors [appointed by federal Govt under AMC], to make Australia a better place than it already is. Community leaders and religious leaders have a big role in helping new migrants settle-in in the new society and integrate well within the broader Australian value system.

We all are stake holders in promoting the narrative of not only “successful Australia” but also “successful multicultural Australia”!

Yadu Singh/Sydney/5th March, 2012

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IIFA in Sydney: How, when and by whom?

Indian actor Abhishek Bachchan with wife/actre...

Image via Wikipedia

IIFA Awards [The International Indian Film Academy Awards] are the most prestigious awards from Bollywood, the premier movie industry in India, and are presented every year by the International Indian Film Academy to recognise professionals and artists from Bollywood.

The first IIFA event was held in 2000. So far, they have been held in different countries around the world, details of which are as follows.

2000: Millennium Dome London, United Kingdom,

2001: Super Bowl Arena, Sun City, South Africa,

2002: Arena of Stars Genting, Highlands, Malaysia,

2003: Coca-Cola Dome, Johannesburg, South Africa,

2004: Singapore Indoor Stadium, Singapore,

2005: Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, The Netherlands,

2006: Dubai International Convention Centre, Dubai, United Arab Emirates,

2007: Hallam FM Arena, Sheffield, United Kingdom,

2008: Siam Paragon, Bangkok, Thailand,

2009: The Venetian Macao, Macau, Macau,

2010: Sugathadasa Stadium, Colombo, Sri Lanka,

2011: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada.

Social and economic benefits of hosting IIFA Awards are many. No wonders, there is a fierce competition among cities to host the event.  IIFA reaches out to millions of viewers and fans across the world providing them with an opportunity to see legends of Bollywood together on one stage. Toronto IIFA event was reportedly watched by >600million viewers. The Academy’s main objective has been to develop and promote relationships between film industries and organizations across the world. The focus is on foreign exchange and interaction, creating a common forum and meeting ground for enhancing business opportunities, apart from showcasing Bollywood cinema.

To prove that the hosting city benefits greatly, here is the latest evidence. Government of Ontario invested US$ 12 million to host 2011 edition of IIFA at Toronto and believed to have gained direct economic impact of over US$ 100 million in tourism. The organisers felt the returns of holding IIFA far exceeded the expectations estimated by the Government of Ontario.

IIFA have never been held in Australia, but Melbourne is trying to host them. They have already started the process.

Sydney is truly a world city with plenty of attractions for the Bollywood artists and fans. After all, who can beat Opera House, pristine beaches like Bondi Beach, and Blue Mountain, along with Hunter Valley which is only a short distance away? NSW can rope in our cricketers too, knowing that some of them have a huge fan following in India. Sydney will beat any city, if it decided to bid for IIFA. NSW should definitely bid for it, as it is indeed going to bring heaps of tourists around the time of the event, and thereafter too, which should generate more than $200 million for the NSW economy. With the flow-on effect on the inward tourism from India, and with the improved image of Australia as a travel destination for Indians, this benefit may well cross 500 millions easily over the short to medium term. I know, I am not a NSW treasury official and can’t predict what the monetary outcome of this event would be for NSW, but one thing is certain that it would be beneficial to the economy.

If IIFA is held in Sydney, they will be the best ever (to match the best ever Olympics) and will help strengthen ties between India and Australia. Basically, there are many positives, and no negative.

Organisations of Indian Australians, and Indian Australians in NSW generally, can play a vital role by helping the NSW Govt in the bidding process. There are >150000 people of Indian heritage in Sydney [more if you add the fans of Bollywood from Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds], who would be a potent force on behalf of NSW in attracting the event for Sydney.

My discussions with many prominent people have given me a clear impression that they would love to have IIFA in Sydney in the near future. To succeed in this however, the work has to start soon. It might be a bit late to bid for 2012, but we can start the process now for 2013 event or thereafter.

NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell is visiting India with a trade delegation next month. I think, it would be a perfect opportunity to initiate the process before the visit and follow it up during the visit.

I, for one, can’t wait to see IIFA event in our beautiful city, Sydney!

PS: I am not in favor of frauds and fake people, with no integrity and value system, getting anywhere near events like IIFA, because they will destroy the whole concept and the brand image. We all know that there are people who can con people to make money, and are very keen to promote themselves as event organizers. They operate with no principle and have no ethics.

Yadu Singh/Sydney/25th October, 2011

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The strategy to encourage more overseas students to study in Australia

I was the chief of the Students’ committee, formed by Indian Consulate in 2009. We studied the students issues, held consultation sessions and came out with a strategy document. The strategy proposed then is still relevant and can  be followed with some modification.

I have continued to have a keen interest this area due to various reasons, but making money myself has not been one of the motives.

Recently, Federal Govt has announced some changes to the Visa rules to encourage overseas students to come to Australia, thus boosting an $18 billion industry, but these changes will help only University sector. The key points in these changes include faster visa processing, less strict requirement in regards to financial support and 2-4 years work visa to work in any area, after completing a bachelor or higher level course from a University.

Premier of NSW, Mr Barry O’Farrell and Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu have asked for some changes in the rules and regulations to revive the vocational education and training sector which is almost moribund now. The events of 2009 and the bad press it generated has compromised this sector massively. NSW and Victoria earn $6.5 billions and $5.8 billions from international education respectively, but this is in jeopardy due to 64 % and 90.1% decline of students in the vocational education and training sector from China and India respectively in recent years.

The whole international education sector needs a boost but we should not allow the weaknesses of previous years to happen again.

There is a case for a support to Vocational education & training sector, provided the courses considered for this support are carefully defined and approved. It should be a “course” which should be the criterion, not the place from where it has been achieved. The quality of the training and a tight control on the delivery of such training to ensure similar levels and standards when compared with a University courses will be the key here.

There is no harm if overseas students have the qualifications which Australia needs, but we should make it clear that none has an automatic right to have permanent residence visa, just because they have a qualification from Australia.

We should encourage only genuine students and never permit visa rorting, which was common until recently. Compliance with Visa rules and conditions must be enforced ruthlessly. Dependent spouses, who are not students, should not be given permission for unlimited work, to prevent sham marriages.

I am outlining the strategy with some modification from our original document.

The key points are;

1. Safety and Security 

Brief Details:

Several cases of robbery & bashings of  Students which gave a very bad publicity. 

Proposed Action Plan 

  • Market Australia as a safe place when compared with other countries, using the experience of long term residents/citizens.
  • Educate students to REPORT the incidents to NSW Police. Reporting does not affect their VISA.
  • Councils to arrange a better lighting around Railway stations, car parks and  alleys etc in the key areas with higher students population
  • Local councils to install CCTV for surveillance of crimes in the key areas with higher students population
  • Liaison with NSW Police re under-cover policing, more visibility and patrolling in hot-spots
  • Education of the students  to be street-smart and be aware of their  surroundings
  • Employers have a duty of care and must arrange them to be dropped off at their apartments if it is beyond 10 PM
  • Explore and educate the issues involving “Work-cover” matters in case of injury/assaults 
  • Some transport concession, which is already available all over Australia except NSW and Vic. It would encourage more use of public transport which might also reduce the assaults/robberies of students.

2. Accommodation for Students: 

Brief Details:

No assistance on arrival. Many students forced to share crowded apartments and Poor treatment by rental agents 

Proposed Action Plan 

  • Education providers should take responsibility for a minimum 6 months accommodation which can be organised at the market rate. Fees can include the rent for such accommodation.  
  • Lobby with Immigration regarding  this requirement [Visa must not be issued unless accommodation confirmed]

 3. Quality of training:  

Brief details:  

Many students are exposed to poor quality of training by educational service providers & shady, shonky or bogus institutions. 

Proposed action plan: 

  • Accreditation authorities/bodies to audit the quality of training randomly and frequently
  • Effective and proper actions on proved cases
  • Anonymous surveys from the current students re the quality issues
  • Effective and prompt action by DEEWR/ACPET re alternate placement in schools/institutions or refund of the tuition fees if the educational provider goes out of business  

4. Exploitation of  students:  

Brief details:  

Students are exposed to exploitation of all kinds & bullying in part time employment or by educational service providers. They get below-award wages in many cases.  

Proposed action plan:  

  • To advise & educate students about their RIGHTS in Australia
  • To educate them re the appropriate agencies to deal with such matters
  • To encourage/facilitate genuine students’ associations which are largely run by students themselves, not business people with hidden agenda and purposes. 
  • To lobby for establishing an  overseas Students’ Ombudsman

 5. Overseas Students’ Ombudsman:

  • This body will help students when they have issues with education providers or with employers.

6. Health Cover, other appropriate insurance matters and  emergency insurance:  

Brief details:  

Lack of proper/current Insurances and coverage by some students, particularly when they are on bridging Visa.

Proposed Action plan:  

  • Pre arrival Information package in the country of origin
  • Proper medical insurance must be a condition for the Visa and such cover must be current at all times during the stay in Australia 

7.  Social issues: 

Brief details: poor communication, insufficient participation in local community events & meetings and poor public behaviour in many cases 

Proposed action plan 

  • Communication/education through community Radio, TV, newspapers and website.
  • Encourage participation of students in community events
  • Know what is expected in every situation.
  • Encouraging and promoting “when in Rome, do as Romans do” policy for our students
  • rules/regulations, Australian ways, expected behaviour and rights/obligations [There is now sufficient information in these matters in various websites] 

8. International education as a separate ministry:

  • There is sufficient justification for a separate ministry due to the fact that it is a big earner for the economy and needs special attention.

9. International students’ advisory body:

  • comprising of some international students, community representatives, education providers and Govt representatives. This will help deal with issues in regards to bad press and advise Govt with policy recommendations.

10. Marketing:

  • targeted marketing in the key markets ie China and India
  • addressing the concerns re safety and quality of education
  • countering the bad publicity about so called “racism”, using community leaders of high repute in the key markets.

Boost in this sector will be great, but we do not need the repetition of past mistakes which literally killed the whole sector. 

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/11th Oct, 2011

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Diwali celebrations in NSW.

We are very pleased to know that NSW Coalition Govt led by The Hon Barry O’Farrell has decided to host Diwali celebration in the NSW Parliament this year. We are thrilled with it and look forward to participating and contributing to this celebration.

It is great that the NSW Govt is hosting the function and thus giving an official status to Diwali celebration. It is a big plus for Indian Australian community in NSW. More details to follow.

Premier, The Hon Barry O’Farrell, and Minister for Citizenship and Communities, The Hon Victor Dominello, deserve a big thank you from Indian community. This is indeed late by a few years, but “now” is better than “never”. NSW Govt hosts celebrations for many other communities. This is the first for Indian Australian community in NSW.

Diwali celebration in NSW Parliament is separate from The Diwali Fair, which is being organised by Hindu Council at Parramatta Stadium on 30th October, 2011. Apart from this, there would many more Diwali celebrations in Sydney.

I want to outline what Diwali is about and why Diwali deserved the honour of being hosted by NSW Govt. This is for those who might not be aware of the significance of Diwali.

Diwali is the biggest festival of India that celebrates the victory of good over the evil. It symbolizes the age-old culture of India which teaches mankind to vanquish ignorance that subdues humanity and to drive away darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge. Diwali, the festival of lights even today in this modern world teaches us to uphold the true values of life.

“Diwali” is the easy-to-pronounce form of Deepavali or Deepawali. In Sanskrit “Deepavali” is the marriage of two Sanskrit words- Deepa meaning light and Avali, meaning a row. Indeed celebrating the row of lights forms one of Diwali’s main attraction.

While Diwali has a religious significance for an estimated 1 billion Hindus world wide, Diwali is clearly much more than that. It is a truly Indian festival which is celebrated by Indians throughout the world in a joyous mood, with zeal and enthusiasm. Diyas [oil lamp usually made from clay, with a cotton wick dipped in Ghee or vegetable oils] and candles are burnt in every home. People clean their homes, sweets are shared and people wish each other well.

It heralds the beginning of new year as per the Hindu calendar. Diwali is normally celebrated in October or November.

Diwali is also an important event for Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism.

Diwali is truly an Indian festival, not just a Hindu festival!

In NSW, Diwali celebration takes the highest spot on the Indian community Calender.
It is estimated that there are over 150 thousand people of Indian heritage in NSW. It can be safely said that Most of them celebrate Diwali each year in one or the other form. The number is growing each year  as more skilled migrants and students arrive from India and make NSW their home.

With multiculturalism recognised as part of the Australian way of life and as a valued asset of New South Wales, it is highly commendable that the Government of NSW recognised this major festival by hosting an official annual celebration at NSW Parliament for Diwali – the festival of light – symbolising and renewing the vows of the people of NSW to uphold the true values of life.

Indian Australian community believe in integration and participation of Indian Australians in the general Australian community. We are strong believers and supporters of multiculturalism and multicultural Australia.

We are thrilled with the new status of Diwali celebration and applauds NSW Govt for their decision to host Diwali celebration in the NSW Parliament. We are committed to working with the NSW government through the appropriate ministry, minister and agency to organise a grand Diwali celebration this year and in future.

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10 Reasons to Celebrate Diwali.
The Festival of Lights is for All

Why do we celebrate Diwali? It’s not just the festive mood in the air that makes you happy, or just that it’s a good time to enjoy before the advent of winter.

There are 10 mythical and historical reasons why Diwali is a great time to celebrate. And there are good reasons not just for Hindus but also for all others to celebrate this great Festival of Lights.

1. The Victory of Rama: According to the epic ‘Ramayana’, it was the new moon day of Kartik when Lord Ram, Ma Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana and conquering Lanka. The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with the earthen lamps and illuminated it like never before.

2. Special Day for the Sikhs: The third Sikh Guru Amar Das institutionalized Diwali as a Red-Letter Day when all Sikhs would gather to receive the Gurus blessings. In 1577, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar was laid on Diwali. In 1619, the sixth Sikh Guru Hargobind, who was held by the Mughal Emperor Jahengir, was released from the Gwalior fort along with 52 kings.

3. Goddess Lakshmi’s Birthday: The Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi incarnated on the new moon day (amaavasyaa) of the Kartik month during the churning of the ocean (samudra-manthan), hence the association of Diwali with Lakshmi.

4. Krishna Killed Narakaasur: On the day preceding Diwali, Lord Krishna killed the demon king Narakaasur and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity. The celebration of this freedom went on for two days including the Diwali day as a victory festival.

5. The Return of the Pandavas: According to the great epic ‘Mahabharata’, it was ‘Kartik Amavashya’ when the Pandavas appeared from their 12 years of banishment as a result of their defeat in the hands of the Kauravas at the game of dice (gambling). The subjects who loved the Pandavas celebrated the day by lighting the earthen lamps.

6. Coronation of Vikramaditya: One of the greatest Hindu King Vikramaditya was coroneted on the Diwali day, hence Diwali became a historical event as well.

7. Special Day for the Arya Samaj: It was the new moon day of Kartik (Diwali day) when Maharshi Dayananda, one of the greatest reformers of Hinduism and the founder of Arya Samaj attained his nirvana.

8. Special Day for the Jains: Mahavir Tirthankar, considered to be the founder of modern Jainism also attained his nirvana on Diwali day.

9. Special day for Buddhism: Newar Buddhists celebrate it because Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism on this day.

10. The Pope’s Diwali Speech: In 1999, Pope John Paul II performed a special Eucharist in an Indian church where the altar was decorated with Diwali lamps, the Pope had a ‘tilak’ marked on his forehead and his speech was bristled with references to the festival of light.

[With input and contribution from Tony Colaco, President, Goan Overseas Association of NSW].

UPDATE: Community Relations Commission [CRC] is the body on behalf of NSW Govt to organise/conduct Deepavali celebration in NSW Parliament on 10th Nov, 2011. 

Yadu Singh/Sydney/1st Oct, 2011
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