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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Community work:what I have done so far.

Updated on 11th April, 2011.

Information

Here is my account about what I have done so far and what I am doing right now.

1. Community work in General:

1.1. Leadership roles in Indian community Medical Associations, Continuing Medical education and Health education of general community.

1.2. Helping poor people from our community ie visitors, overseas patients and Indian students when they are in need of health care in Australia without sufficient financial resources.

1.3. Helping poor students in my district with  scholarships etc.

2. My work as the co-ordinator of the Indian Consul General’s committee on students’ issues:
Indian Consul General’s Community Committee on Students’ Issues, Sydney, NSW was formed at the Indian Consulate on 6th April 2009. It did intensive work and completed its task in a very efficient manner. After accomplishing its mandated task, it dissolved itself at the end of June 2009 and communicated this to the Indian Consulate on 1/7/09.

The committee had Harmohan Walia,Vish Viswanathan, Shubha Kumar, Stanley D’Cruz and Dr Yadu Singh as its members. I was its co-ordinator.

This committee had done following activities;

#met students numerous times.

#organised a students’ forum on 16th May at Strathfield.

#co-organised a students’ forum with UIA in Strathfield on 6th June.

#arranged help to a woman student who was a victim of domestic violence.

#arranged help to 2 women students who were stalked by another Indian co-worker.

#arranged meetings with minister of education, NSW and her senior advisers and students from an aviation school-Work in progress.

#arranged a meeting with the president, NSW upper House [Mr Peter Primrose] and Ms Helen Westwood MLA and students.

#arranged meeting of an aviation school student with consul General [this student gave him his papers].

#arranged a meeting with a community minded lawyer and aviation school students.

#met the mother of a student of an aviation school. This lady’s husband had died only 4 weeks ago due to the serious stress involved in losing the money with the school in Sydney without the required outcome.

#arranged and participated in TV coverage of students’ issues on Channel 7, 9, 10, SBS TV, ABC TV, and Bloomberg.

#participated in the coverage on ABC radio, SBS radio, SBS Hindi radio, 2UE, JJJ, Indian Link radio, Radio UMANG, 2GB radio and SBS Kannada Radio.

#arranged talk-backs on these issues on SBS radio and Radio UMANG [98.5MHZ, Fridays,8-9 PM]-now stopped.

#participated in coverage on SMH, The Australian, Daily Telegraph, other newspapers and AAP.

#participated in the coverage on Indian newspapers in Australia [The Indian, Indian Link, Indus Age, The Indian Sub Continent Times, Indian Down Under].

#participated in TimesNow, NDTV, CNN/IBN, Headlines Today, AajTak and other Indian TV Channels.

#participated in the coverage on main Indian newspapers and PTI.

#involved with some top-grade Australian media programmes with wide audience in getting students’ issues covered.

#arranged funds for the accommodation for the relatives Mr Rajesh Kumar [the petrol bomb victim from Harris Park] within 24 hours.

#met commander Robert Redfern , Parramatta Local area Command of NSW Police several times.

#did what we could do to persuade/help the students when they were on the Harris Park streets for 3 nights.

#participated in the community leaders’ meeting with chairman, Community Relations Commission [CRC] at CRC HQ

#participated in a CRC organised meeting with Indian students at Parramatta RSL.

#participated in the community leaders’ meeting with the Premier, Mr Nathan Rees

#Met Indian Consul General and Consul several times

#helped a prominent Indian TV channel with a documentary on true situation in Australia. One of us [Yadu Singh] was the citizen Journalist.

#discussed and formulated the strategy to solve the problems of our students.

#submitted our strategy to the NSW task force and other relevant authorities.

#provided leadership in the matters relating to Indian students.

#gave our after hours and week-ends for students’ work and provided pastoral care to the needy students.

#provided/facilitated medical help to the needy students/their family members.

#met the visiting Indian journalists at the Consulate.
The committee members were all hard-working people with top-grade integrity. They did not have any conflict of interest in the matters relating to Indian students. None of them were involved in the students’ placement in a school [after taking a commission], running of any such school or running of any business which could have a potential conflict of interest in any manner.

All members worked with full dedication, cohesion and team feeling without any undermining of one another. This itself is a rare thing for an Indian group. We are proud of our work and ourselves.

We appealed to every person from Indian background to stay away from any leadership role if they were involved in any activity which did/could create a conflict of interest in these matters but we did not succeed in this matter.

We raised our voice forcefully against the exploitation of Indian students by some Indian employers.

We also appealed to the Indian newspapers and Radio programmes to ask questions from every leader [on students’ issues] about their involvement in any activity which  created a conflict of interest in those matters. We suggested that the  media should start with the questions on conflict of interests when interviewing those leaders.

3.My work beyond/outside the Consul General’s committee on students:

a. helped the refund of >$12000 to a student of a Flying school.

b. arranged legal assistance to the students from this Flying school from a solicitor in Sydney and Canberra.

c.1. facilitated a good outcome between parties involving VETAB, Flying school and students.

c.2. held several meetings involving VETAB high authorities, the Flying school and students in VETAB and my offices.

d. organised further refunds/savings [including waiving of about $50000f the legal fees in regards to a legal proceedings in the Supreme Court where students had lost their case and costs was awarded against them]] for a Flying school students from ESOS scheme with the help of VETAB, DEEWR and federal education dept which is worth >$250000 . I was the key and the only Indian person in this work for these students. I did this as I felt it was my duty to help students from my community who were feeling powerless in Australian system.

e. held meetings involving a Flying school people, VETAB and students.

f. helped payment of >$2400 to a student which was originally denied by his employer.

g. arranged funding of about $1000 to the family members of the “Petrol bomb” victim.

h. donated $500 to a students association.

i. arranged sponsorship for foods, meeting hall and public liability insurance for a students’ association [worth >$1000].

j. mentoring students for their careers and future in OZ.

k.1. donated $500 to AHIA’s seniors.

k.2. donated $500 to Fiji floods relief fund via International congress of Fiji Indians and organized $2000 donations from other doctors

k.3. donated $500 to Sanatan Arya Pratinidhi Samaj, Sydney.

l. donated a good amount [>$2000] for needy/deserving causes involving victims of earthquakes, accidental deaths, injuries and illnesses.

m.1. helping several students including assault victims for their work comp, treatment and issues involving their parents.

m.2. Liaised with NSW Police high ups in regards to the assaults of 2 Indians in Sydney.

m.3. Advised/mentored several others in regards to the steps they needed to take when they were assaulted.

n. established a benevolent fund for the community with further activities in the process.

o. participated as an active member of the working party with CRC on students including inputs for Z card.

p.1. took leadership role via the media including Indian and Australia media [Chanel 9, SBS, NDTV, Indian ethnic newspapers].

p.2. helped Radio National in making a documentary on students [see details in this BLOG elsewhere].

q. raised the issue of OZ Uranium sale to India during the Australia India Day celebration on 24th Jan, 2010 where several ministers, MPs, MLAs, MLC, and media people were present.

r. helped community members’ relatives/parents including FIJI Indians’ when they needed medical help.

s. helped students with their medical treatment of all types when they needed such help. This included getting a student admitted for the urgent treatment of his Kidney stone trouble which was threatening his Kidney.

t. helping the community members from India and South Asia with a concessional fees structure because they are part of my community [a service worth more than $50000/year].

u. met NSW Premier, VETAB authorities and NSW Education authorities on students’ issues

v. did all this work without any personal benefits or COMMISSIONs unlike some of our “leaders”. SEE my BLOG for more details.

w.1. trying to clean the community leadership and making them accountable.

w.2. Exposed commission taking by some leaders of an Indian community association in Sydney.

x. taking a leadership role against unfair portrayal of Australia as a Racist society by Indian media.

y. mentored medical doctors from India in regards to their training and registration issues including achieving a successful outcome for a house surgeon who was facing exclusion from the medical work due to her unfair treatment in a Sydney hospital. I worked very actively with this young doctor and her supervisors including Hospital administrators to get her into the internship at a different hospital. She passed her assessment and is now working in Sydney.

z.1. many other charity work in India including scholarships for poor students in India.

z.2. running a weekly Radio UMANG [Health radio] programme.

z.3. worked as a catalyst in resolving the issues between Indian consul General, Sydney and some businessmen with a successful outcome.

z.4. took an active and a leading  role in resolving the issues between Indus Age [after a controversial ad] and the community, and achieved a successful outcome [with an apology and a promise to not publish such ads again].

z.5. Formed a community committee [total 10 people in it] against Visa Capping Bill in May 2010 and lobbied with the Gov ministers and Media against this Bill which was very harmful to the students. Worked actively for this committee, visiting community gatherings, temples and Gurdwaras to collect signatures against this Bill. We also met the Immigration minister, Mr Chris Evans, asking him to not proceed with this Bill. See www.fairgo4internationalstudents.org.

z.6. Formed a national organisation called National Council of Indian Australians [NCIA, www.ncia.org.au] with participation from all over Australia [all states and territories representatives].

z.7. Spoke as a lead doctor in the Health Summit, organised by GOPIO, Sydney, educating/informing people on Health matters on 4th Dec, 2010.

z.8. Helped a family locate their son [International student] http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/a-dumped-bike-a-glimpse-on-sydney-stations-cctv-what-happened-to-indian-student-abhijeet-20101006-166rs.html

z.9. Raised $7100 as a team for Qld Flood relief on 28th Jan, 2011.

z.10. Took up the issue of attack on  Sri Mandir temple, Auburn and brought it to the national media.

z.11. Took up the matter involving HINDI in the Australian national draft curriculum-Languages and wrote to ACARA. 

z.12. Campaigned for removal of an incorrect map of India in DIAC website and succeeded.

I have not listed every thing I have done or am doing. Much more is being done presently.

I had to write this down because some of my detractors were making comments like “what has he done for the community”.

Just to let you know that it gives me a sense of satisfaction to do some community work beyond my medical work. 


Yadu Singh/Sydney/22nd November, 2010

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Indians are dishing out the medicine which they have been getting for a while in Melbourne:Indian Express story.

This is an interesting read.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/indians-bash-up-two-aussies-following-racial-row/525177/0

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/adopt-gandhian-way-and-remain-calm-indian-community-leaders/525239/

Yadu Singh/Sydney/05-10-09

Looking for the real leaders from Indian Australian community:where are they hiding?

Dear Indian Australians in Sydney

With the exposure of rorts/scams through the Australian media recently, a significant damage has happened to the image of our community. We can not be happy about it as it is about us. A beginning has to be made to mend/repair the harm to the image and standing of our community.

Recently, a fellow from our community committed suicide in Harris Park, NSW. There were some issues in regards to arranging transportation of the body to India.

Also, recently, a young man died unexpectedly in Sydney. I understand that it was due to a heart illness. The person in question was a heavy drinker and smoker. He was the only son of his parents.

Mental health and cardio-vascular health issues are significant problems in our community.

“Racism” is a much used term which gets used, rightly or wrongly, as an explanation for all sorts of problems. I know one who tried to employ this word when caught travelling on the city rail without a valid ticket!

Basically, we have issues involving health, settlement and leadership in our community which are very relevant for the new arrivals.

For obvious reasons, we will have to do something about these issues. We have to think about the best mechanism/tools to address these issues. We have to help our community where our help is needed. Our community leaders have a special responsibility in this regard.

I do not claim to be “Mr know it all” but I do not mind in speaking my mind. I recognise that others would have good ideas too.

I propose that;

1. we do not encourage the participation of those members of our community who are known to be involved in the exploitation of students or are parts of the scams/rorts, in the social functions/gatherings.

2. we do not support the business owners who fall under the category 1.

3. we have a meeting of community minded people and those who have impeccable integrity with good reputation soon. I propose the United Indian Associations [UIA] president to preside this meeting.  

4. we identify those people quickly who are operating as the leaders but have a clear conflict of interest in those matters and ask them to take a back seat.

5. we help set up the system which is there to help our students and Indian Australians when they are in desperate needs for the help. This should include the establishment of a Benevolent Fund.

6. we support UIA to grow and become an effective organisation by discussing, debating, reforming by bringing out the required changes. UIA Constitutional review is long overdue.

7. we urge UIA to become a more open and inclusive organisation by co-opting well-meaning and capable people from outside UIA in its committees.

8. we think about forming a new organisation with the required goals if UIA leaders are not able/wiling to reform UIA to make it a relevant and an effective body.

9. we take a stand against the rorts/scams and ask Australian Gov authorities to stamp out these activities quickly.

10. we start identifying people with leadership qualities and help them reach the places of influences including political offices ie MLAs/MLCs/MPs.

11. we re-energize the leadership by taking a back seat voluntarily if we have been leaders for a long period and have not been contributing meaningfully and encourage others with abilities to take the leadership roles in our associations.

12. we work actively to promote the pan-Indian identity of Indians and discourage the regional identities in Australia.

13. we do everything to promote a better understanding/integration among Indian Australians with themselves and with Australian community in general. The distrust has to go.

14. we work effectively and collaboratively to encourage SBS TV to have the programmes on India/Indian people, based on our numbers, as is the case with other communities.

15. we and Indian Govt Missions work collaboratively to have a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in a prominent place in Sydney and Melbourne.

16. we network, interact, co-ordinate and execute the health education programmes which are relevant to our communities.

Until recently, our Indian Australian community has had a great reputation. We want this reputation restored to our community.

We must promote only those who have a genuine ability to lead, understand the needs of our community and also understand the meaning of “conflict of interest”.

Let the seniors guide us in our goals! Let us learn from their experience and wisdom!

The community has to grow and we have to grow with it!

Let the debate begin!

Kind regards

Dr Yadu Singh

Sydney/03-10-09

Farrukh Dhondy’s advice to Indian Australians and Indian students is inappropriate.

Dr Yadu Singhhttp://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/09/17/2688266.htm

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/world/indians-abroad/Dont-break-the-law-Australian-PM-warns-Indian-students/articleshow/5021162.cms

Mr Farrukh Dhondy is a UK-based writer/editor of Indian background. He was interviewed by the ABC AM team today [see the link above].

He is advising students and Indian Australians to retaliate and take law into our hands. Any sane person would see the futility of his argument. How are we going to achieve what we want if we go the direction recommended by him?

His advice to us and Indian students in Australia is totally inappropriate. It may even be crazy and irrational. It is not going to solve the problems.

I give following arguments against his advice:

1. Indians are a small population on numerical strength and can not be expected to win the retaliation game.

2. Indians are not going to become idiots like those thugs who bashed 3 Indians in Epping, Melbourne.

3. Students have come here to study, not to fight in retaliation which would cause more and serious troubles for them.

4. Taking law into our hands will itself be illegal and may end up sending us to jail.

5. Taking law into our hands will destroy any goodwill, Indian Australians have from the general Australian community.

6. Taking law into our hands will be totally counter-productive.

We reject his suggestions as irresponsible, insane, impractical and inappropriate.

We do have to understand the difference between retaliation and self-defence.

We have to find solutions to these problems within the systems of Australia and within the Laws of Australia.

Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd is right in advising the students to not take laws into their hands [see the link above].

I would categorise Mr Dhondy’s comments as ill-advised statements.

He does not live in Australia and would not know the situation in Australia.

We are parts of Australian society and we have to find solutions to the troubles in co-operation with other constituents of Australian society.

Let me re-state that the overwhelming majority of Australians are excellent citizens. They are as frustrated and angry with a miniscule fraction of our people who are racist and do not hesitate to harm others because of the race reasons. To me and other decent Australians, this tiny minority does not qualify to be called “Human”.

Mr Dhondy, please butt out from Australian troubles and issues. You are inflaming the situation.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/17th Sept, 2009

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Dear Indian Community leaders in Sydney,……….

Dear Indian community leaders in Sydney

With the exposure of rorts/scams through the Australian media recently, a significant damage has happened to the image of our community. We can not be happy about it as it is about us.

For obvious reasons, we will have to do something about it.

A beginning has to be made to mend/repair the harm to the image and standing of out community.

I propose that;

1. we do not encourage the participation of those members of our community who are known to be involved in the exploitation of students or are parts of the scams/rorts, in the social functions/gatherings.

2. we do not support the business owners who fall under the category 1.

3. we have a meeting of community minded people and those who have impeccable integrity with good reputation soon. I propose the UIA president to preside this meeting.  

4. we identify those people quickly who are operating as the leaders but have a clear conflict of interest in those matters and ask them to take a back seat.

5. we help establish the system which is there to help our students and other people when they are in desperate needs for the help. This should include the establishment of a Benevolent Fund.

6. we support UIA to grow and become an effective organisation by discussing, debating, reforming by bringing out the required changes. UIA Constitutional review is long overdue.

7. we encourage UIA to become a more open and inclusive organisation by co-opting well-meaning and capable people from outside UIA in its committees.

8. we take a stand against the rorts/scams and ask Australian Gov authorities to stamp out these activities quickly.

9. we start identifying people with leadership qualities and help them reach the places of influences including political offices ie MLAs/MLCs/MPs.

10. we re-energise the leadership by taking a back seat voluntarily if we have been leaders for a long period and have not been contributing meaningfully and encourage others with abilities to take the leadership roles in our associations.

11. we work actively to promote the pan-Indian identity of Indians and discourage the regional identities in Australia.

12. we do everything to promote a better understanding/integration among Indian Australians with themselves and with Australian community in general. The distrust has to to go.

13. we work effectively and collaboratively to encourage SBS TV to have the programmes on India/Indian people, based on our numbers, as is the case with other communities.

14. we and Indian Govt Missions work collaboratively to have a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in a prominent place in Sydney and Melbourne.

Let the seniors guide us in our goals!

The community has to grow and we have to grow with it!

Let the debate begin!

Kind regards

Dr Yadu Singh

Sydney/04-09-09

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community members will be able to write letters, suggesting what our leaders should or should not do.

New thinking and new beginning for the Indian community in Australia in the aftermath of Indian students’ troubles and media exposure: a time to show true leadership!

Hello every one!

We all know what was happening and who was doing what in regards to the International Indian students. We know about the rorts/scams. We know how our students were exploited by many including Indian people. We know how they are having a horrible time after some of the schools have closed down or about to close down. There is a general uncertainty around them. It is a very difficult time for them.

Indian Australians have had a great reputation for their standards and conducts. Recent exposure of the scams/rorts in regards to international education has undermined our reputation to some extent.

We all know that the overwhelming majority of our community members are decent people with impeccable character. After a conference recently, I and some of my friends went out with some of our Australian friends. We had the usual banter but the discussion did go to the students’ problems. Someone did mention that they were surprised with the rorts/scams involved in the international education and our people. These comments were quite mild and did not make me feel targeted. They were all friendly people.

When I returned home, I did think about what was said. It is obvious that our reputation has had a hit. Out professional people ie doctors, accountants, lawyers and bankers and also business people are the ones who will probably suffer to some extent.

We do have to take a stock of the situation and do have to do something about it too.

Many things can be done but my suggestions are listed here.

1. We make our voices loud and clear about our condemnation of rorts, scams, rorters and scammers.

2. We demand from the Australian and Indian authorities to deal with these issues with a heavy hand and stamp out such activities.

3. We do not associate with those who are involved in rorts/scams socially or in business matters. Most of us have a fairly good idea who these people are.

4. We ask our Indian Gov agencies in Australia to not associate themselves with these people, directly or indirectly, in any shape or form. They must remain Persona Non Grata.

5. We demand from the Indian Media to not support/promote or do business with people who are involved in rorts/scams. The community and the media have to work together to cleanse ourselves from the activities of some of us who do not have a qualm about doing anything to make money.

6. We start questioning our leaders about what they are doing and be willing to help them in a constructive manner.

7. We expect from the Indian media to question our leaders about their productivity, vision and “conflict of interest”. Shonky leaders need to be exposed, discouraged and excluded.

8. We support the largest Indian association [UIA] after it has set its house in order and reformed itself.

9. We encourage our people by recognising their work, commitment and genuineness and not criticise them for the sake of just criticism. Constructive criticism is good but we need to chip in with our support too.

10. We promote our pan-Indian identity vigorously, instead of getting ourselves too much  into our regional Indian identities. 

11. We do some genuine charity work for general Australian issues/projects to make a statement that we are as Australian as anybody else.

12. We network effectively among ourselves and general Australian community in regards to issues which are of significance to all of us, not only as Indians but also as Indian Australians.

The Indian Australian community has to show leadership.  We have a challenge and this is about our name, image and reputation in this country.The time has come for us to stand up and be counted for the challenge. 

Regards

Dr Yadu Singh/08-09-09