On the proposed Indian Cultural Precinct

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A variety of ideas emerged from a recent public consultation in Melbourne

What would you like Melbourne’s Indian Cultural Precinct to look like?

A variety of ideas emerged at a recent public meeting held by the Indian Cultural Precinct Advisory panel to consult with the community.

Themes suggested revolved around representing India’s vast diversity, celebrating India’s artistic and cultural heritage, and ensuring the precinct was centrally located to enable people from all over Melbourne to visit.

A few participants voiced the desire for the precinct to showcase India’s culture for fellow Australians and tourists visiting Melbourne, making it an inclusive experience for all.

Trade representatives stressed the value of Australia’s trade with India, and suggested that the precinct be a gateway for all who wished to do business to India, as first step to understanding and experiencing Indian culture in order to prevent and pre-empt all too common business missteps in India.

The Victorian government recently committed $500,000 to establish a new Indian Cultural Precinct in Melbourne as recognition of the contribution the Indian community has made to Victoria.

Making the announcement in May this year, he said, “Victoria’s Indian community is long-established and well-respected, and this new cultural precinct will be a welcome meeting place for the community to call its own. The precinct will tell the story of Indian migration to Victoria, and will be home to a number of significant events for the Indian community”.

The Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott, established the Indian Cultural Precinct Advisory panel which is to advise the Minister as to the location and the nature of the precinct.
The panel is consulting with the community via a series of three public meetings. The first of the public meetings was held in Werribee on 3 August, the second in Melbourne CBD on the 4 and the third to be conducted in Dandenong on 7 August. The panel comprises a cross section of people from the community with representation from community organisations, business councils and government organisations supporting multiculturalism.

The public meeting in Melbourne CBD was moderated by panel member and chairperson Maria Dimoupoulos. Hakan Akyol, Director of the office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship opened the meeting by acknowledging the important place that the Indian community held in Victoria, and stressed the relevance of the cultural precinct especially since the Indian community in Victoria is Australia’s largest. Participants in the meeting were predominantly from various Indian community organisations, with a few people representing trade interests between India and Australia.

A large number of participants expressed concerns that $500,000 was inadequate funding for a project that had so much promise, but were reassured by Mr. Akyol and some members of the panel who acknowledged that even though it was a small sum, cultural precincts change shape and form and evolve over time to overcome initial limitations and expectations. Their experience from other cultural precincts showed that one precinct can grow to multiple precincts at various locations via organic growth, and that other needs of the community would be met through community centres, which are funded separately. In response to financial concerns, other participants suggested a participatory model where government funding was augmented by the business community and Indian community organisations.

Following the public consultations, an independent feasibility study will recommend a suitable location to the panel. The panel is expected to submit its feedback to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs by October 2015.

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Dipanjali Rao
Dipa is an IT professional whose interests lie in politics, gender and development. She enjoys singing, music and cooking and tends to buy books she never reads