fbpx
Sunday, June 20, 2021

NSW Senate passes motion asking David Shoebridge to apologise to Hindu community

Reading Time: 5 minutes 

AT A GLANCE

  • NSW Hindu community took umbrage at comments made by Greens Senator David Shoebridge against VHP Australia’s scripture lessons at state schools
  • A motion was proposed by One Nation’s Mark Latham for Mr Shoebridge to withdraw comments and apologise to the Hindu community
  • The motion was passed, with support seen across the political divide

The NSW Senate has passed a motion asking Greens MP David Shoebridge to withdraw comments made by him against a Hindu religious organisation and apologise to the Hindu community.

The comments were made by him during a Budgets estimate hearing on 5 March, for the portfolio area Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans. At the hearing, questions were raised regarding the rise of ‘far-right extremism’ following social disturbances in the Indian community.

The motion was proposed by Mark Latham of One Nation Party and passed by a voice vote.

Mark Latham MP.
Mark Latham MP. Source: Twitter

The Hindu community in NSW took umbrage against comments made by Greens MP David Shoebridge. At the hearing, he had raised concerns about Hindu scripture classes in NSW schools. “Does Multiculturalism NSW have any oversight of the fact that one far-right Hindu extremist organisation called Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which is designated as a militant extremist religious organisation in the Central Intelligence Agency’s The World Factbook, is providing scripture instruction in NSW public schools? Do you have any role in vetting that or speaking with the education department and reviewing who is providing scripture lessons?”

Caught unawares at the question, Joseph LaPosta, CEO of Multiculturalism NSW, offered in reply to have a COMPLAN committee look into the matter and “whether there are elements of these sorts of divisive angles… permeating our Department of Education.” (COMPLAN helps identify, assess and respond to issues impacting on community harmony in NSW.)

This week, the Hindu community is seeing it as a victory that the motion has been passed to ask David Shoebridge to apologise, especially as it won support across the political divide.

It appears that while Mr Shoebridge may have done some research about VHP in preparation for the budgets estimate hearing, he may not have acquainted himself closely with the activities of VHP Australia, especially since he chose to bring them up in his comments regarding spiritual instruction in our schools.

As watchers of the trends in Australia’s Indian community, Indian Link has been reporting on the activities of this organisation since it launched in 1996.

Photo from the 6th Australian National Hindu Conference organised by VHP Australia.
Photo from the 6th Australian National Hindu Conference organised by VHP Australia. (supplied)

A volunteer-run charitable and social-cultural organisation, its agenda within the community has covered an entire gamut from cultural programs, yoga, elder care, and programs for families with special needs. Outside the community, its activities have included a variety of social service programs, showcasing the social and economic benefits of Australian cultural diversity.

Its ranks include diverse Hindus from across linguistic divides, its guiding principle being Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (Sanskrit for “The world is one family”).

Its most impactful service though, has been in education. Its Hindu scripture classes have been the first-ever for Hindu students in the state, and continues to be the only one.

The program is run by volunteers and is not paid for by the schools.

As Daniel Mookhey (ALP) said in his statement in Parliament, “When I finished my schooling I had never, ever attended a Hindu scripture class. Today a Hindu child can learn in a NSW school that Hinduism as a faith is no less than Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism or the world’s other great religions.”

Another initiative supported by the VHP sees the teaching of Sanskrit language under the aegis of the NSW Community Languages Schools Program. Not only is it helping to keep alive a classical language, but its program is also doing this in a manner relevant to a new generation of school students (such as for instance, translating the Australian national anthem into Sanskrit and performing it at events).

The Hindu Council of Australia has claimed that “there is immense demand for Hindu scripture lessons from schools and so far only a fraction of these demands are being met by Hindu volunteers.”

Daniel Mookhey noted, “It is an immense achievement of every Hindu religious teacher and volunteer who is providing that education. They are like my mums and aunties. That means a lot in our culture. I know these people; they are not extremists. It is not right to paint them with that brush.”

MLC Scott Farlow, who was at the Budget Estimates hearing, told Parliament, “VHP is a registered incorporated charity in NSW with no paid staff but over 250 volunteers who dedicate themselves to supporting the community and, in particular, special religious education [SRE]. VHP is not listed in the current edition of the CIA World Factbook, and Mr Shoebridge has not put forward any allegations or evidence of any illegal actions, extremist positions or issues with them.”

In his remarks, ALP’s Hugh McDermott (State Member for Prospect) referred to the work of Subramanian Ramamoorthi JP, President of VHP Australia. “Mr Ramamoorthi and VHP Australia have the confidence of the Department of Defence, which has appointed him to the Religious Advisory Committee to the Australian Defence Force [ADF]. He is currently serving as the representative of VHP. During his time on the advisory committee, the number of Hindu members of the Australia Defence Force has increased by some 50 per cent, a fact that he is proud of as an Australia citizen. Further, Mr Ramamoorthi has received confirmation from the NSW Police Force Terrorism Investigation Squad that Vishva Hindu Parishad is not a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia. The harm that such allegations can cause to our community is immeasurable. The allegations are an attack on not just VHP Australia but all multicultural community organisations.”

Mention was also made about contemporary COVID-ravaged India, when many Hindus are looking towards their faith for sustenance.

To “sustain” is the role of Hindu dharma – a term loosely translating to “religion”.

Indeed, as Rajendra Pandey, former President of VHP South Australia said at recent national conference of Hindus, “There is no word in the English or any other language that accurately conveys the real meaning of Dharma. Dharma is not a religion, it is not a tradition, it is not a culture, it is not ethnicity, it is not a nationality, it is not a faith, it is not even a way of life. Dharma means ‘that which sustains’.”

READ ALSO: Syd Archbishop says Indian MP must retract false statements about Graham Staines


Link up with us!

Indian Link News website: Save our website as a bookmark

Indian Link E-NewsletterSubscribe to our weekly e-newsletter

Indian Link Newspaper: Click here to read our e-paper

Indian Link app: Download our app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play and subscribe to the alerts

Facebookfacebook.com/IndianLinkAustralia

Twitter: @indian_link

Instagram: @indianlink

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/IndianLinkMediaGroup

- Advertisement -
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -

Podcasts

Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

0
Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

0
To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

0
  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...
- Advertisement -

Latest News

REVIEW: Sherni

0
The film Sherni tackles several diverse issues. It is as much about sexism in sarkari workplace offices as it is about rapid erosion of...
EOFY shopping deals

EOFY deals you can’t miss

0
  It’s THAT time of the year again! June is the month when the whole retail supply chain indulges in a discounting overdrive. So, get...
singh biker club logo

Singh Motorcycle Club: A bikers’ group with a difference

0
  When Mavleen Singh Dhir hops on to his Harley Davidson Fat Boy to ride to Grey Gum Café in the Blue Mountains of NSW...

On the spirit of music: meet Sydney band Goldfynch

0
  If this year has been tough on your travel plans and wanderlust, how about ballooning over Paris instead? For Sydney-based musical duo Niyati and...
VS Collective and Priyanka Chopra Jonas

Victoria’s Secret welcomes ‘VS Collective’

0
  Victoria’s Secret (VS) is a brand renowned for its ‘sexy’ lingerie’s and beauty products amplifying a brand image of Barbie models with the perfect...