As we all know, we are more than 100000+ strong in Sydney alone. Total population of ours in Australia is 250000+ [350000+ if we add students]. We are not insignificant in numbers. We have fairly good representations in various professions including media. I wouldn’t know for sure, but my understanding is most of us do OK in the economic matters. Several of us own motels/hotels. Overall, we are doing OK although some newly arrived people are struggling.
Indian Australians have had a great reputation thus far. We have been known for our high educational standards, proficiency in English, manners and comparatively low crime. This has changed however lately. Insurance frauds, sex-related crimes, murders, domestic violence, false certificates, poor communication skills, poor behaviour/manners, rorting the system, contract marriages and others have been reported in relation to our community. Most of these things have been in the media in relation to students who have come here from India on students Visa. This does not mean that all students are doing wrong things but a small proportion is certainly into it.
The loss of our image/reputation in the eyes of general community is a matter of concern. This is going to have a serious impact on our professionals and our children. We need to do something about it. Most of us are great people and we must not allow a small section to harm our reputation.
How and what we have to do to redeem/restore our reputation is going to generate a debate. Here are my thoughts.
1.We need to work for an effective leadership of our community. These leaders must be goal-driven and deliver the results based on the agenda of the community. My view is that “dated”, “chronic” and recycled” leaders from several of our associations are encouraged to retire from their “leadership”. There is a need to have a meeting of our “leaders”, community members and media to figure out what we are doing wrong, what we ought to do and how we do it. Someone need to take the responsibility to organise this meeting. That person has to be acceptable to most.
2.To achieve the results, we need to consider an association which is above the region based associations and agenda. Region based associations can’t be expected, by the very nature, to think on the Pan-Indian basis. We need to get out of our regional identities and start acting our Indian identity in thoughts and actions. We need to work for an association which is pan-Indian in nature and is an individual based association. There is none of this type presently.
3. UIA, FAIA, AHIA and GOPIO are our important associations. FAIA really is a failed association now as it does not have many with it. There is hardly anything which it does these days except a few statements which it gets published in its friendly newspapers. Maharastra Association of Sydney is listed as its member but they have left FAIA at least a year ago and joined UIA. One of them is in UIA’s EC. I don’t believe that FAIA can lead us with most of its members coming from “Song and dance” groups. AHIA is not a pan-Indian association and it has not been very active lately. AHIA used to be very active a few years ago but it is not the case presently, despite many very good people in it.GOPIO is getting bigger with more chapters in Sydney and has many great people in it. It is unfortunately still a North Indians-based group in Sydney. Let us see how they grow and what they do. Their USA/UK counterparts have been in the forefront for the matters involving Indians. That leaves UIA which is a significant association. It is not able to achieve its goals, largely because of their tendency to elect ineffective leaders. Its agenda is confined to holding a few fairs/forums and issuing a few statements. Spin doctoring is a significant agenda. It has become stagnant and needs fresh ideas, energy and people. People have been advising them to reform themselves which unfortunately has not happened. As a result, UIA has many “recycled” and “tired” leaders. UIA has the high potentials if UIA leaders want to go there but all the signs are against it presently. UIA GC [Governing Council] has many great people but they have been disinterested in UIA lately. Let us hope that they can do introspection and bring changes. It would be good if UIA can reform itself. UIA in its current form can’t lead us effectively and successfully. My belief is that we should avoid multiple associations as we already have many. There is always a possibility that we will be able to see where we are doing wrong and what we need to do to achieve things for our community. It is applicable to everyone who is in the “leadership”.
4. We need to consider mechanisms/tools to mentor/help/guide our new arrivals. This help is needed in regards to the system in OZ, settlement, jobs, accommodation and many more. This should be a significant job of our associations. We should not duplicate/triplicate our efforts but we should have a monthly/bi monthly meetings of this nature which should be done by the community leadership group.
5. We need to mentor/guide/help our students who have come from Indian villages/towns/cities, often without any real idea about the systems in OZ. Often, they do not know how to conduct themselves in public places. It is our responsibility too to help them understand what is expected from them and what they can expect from the OZ systems. We do not want to be defined by the sub-standard behaviour of a small segment of Indian students.
6. We need to understand the conflict of interest principle. As an example, if I am an education agent or I run a school, then I should withdraw from the leadership role for the matters related to that subject. I can be an advisor but not the leader.
7. Our Indian ethnic media in Sydney has limitations because it depends on advertisement dollars. It often glorifies those who should not be glorified. Newspapers will become more independent if they are not free and we pay for their copies. $2.00 is nothing for us and we need to think about it. I have often wondered whether we need a “real” newspaper which does the job of a “real” newspaper. Not possible until we are prepared to pay for it!
8. Vietnamese community/doctors had recently collected $50000.oo for Bankstown hospital but we are generally not into this type of activities. We are part of Australian community and we need to participate in activities of this nature. This will get us a lot more respect/recognition as a component of the Australian community.
9. A community Benevolent fund is a good idea. We are establishing a fund of this nature. Funny thing is that UIA is also establishing a benevolent fund after knowing about ours. UIA has been around for >15 years and do big functions but they have never thought about it before. “Me too” syndrome is pathetic. I understand that FAIA also has a benevolent fund and Bhavan Australia also has it. How many benevolent funds should we have? There is a need to merge all of them into one. We have to think on this.
10. An accountability of actions [or inactions] and transparency are things which are essential for a successful leadership group. We need to declare what funds were raised, what were the expenses [how were they dispersed] and what is the saving. Every association must practise this principle. Media should take an active interest in these matters. No commissions by the “leaders” please.
11. We need to have effective strategies in the matter relating to domestic violence, seniors’ issues and community projects such as “India House” and a nursing home for Indian community people. Dynamic people with community mind should be encouraged to participate in them. Isn’t is shameful that nothing effective has been done in these matters? What have our “leaders” done then?
12. There should be a community agenda which should be decided based on community consultations and with participation from leaders from all segments and media.
13. Supporting our businesses is a must as they are the ones who often help the community projects by participating in community functions. I am sorry to point out that there is an element of mistrust among ourselves for our own people and it needs to change. Like other communities, we need to become more supportive of our own people. Envy, “Tall Poppy Syndrome”, rumour mongering, character assassinations and pulling down our own people are not something which will help us as a community in the long term.
14. Let us treat our own people with a little more respects. Let us recognise our own people, accepting that we all have some negatives. This is a futuristic suggestion and is applicable to all including myself.
15. Let us develop a more supportive approach to our people where good qualities are recognised/honoured/acknowledged and bad qualities are not.
I am sure, you will have very many great ideas. Lets share them. Lets have a debate.
Yadu Singh/Sydney/12th March 2010