The CIA’s Republic Day event brings together politicians and the community. PAWAN LUTHRA reports
The Council of Indian Australians (CIA) has come a long way since its inception just over three years ago. Since that time, despite internal leadership ructions, the organisation has made some meaningful contributions to the local Indian community. Celebrating India’s Republic Day and Australia Day, and taking on the mantle of educating the community on the issues of domestic violence as one of its missions for 2013 is indeed to be applauded. Subba Rao Varigonda and his energetic team are emerging as an organisation with a conscience and will help fill a much-felt void in the community.
With over 400 people present at its annual celebration of two important events in the Indian and Australian calendars – India’s Republic Day and Australia Day, the highlight was the entertainment for the evening, conceived and put together by well-known Sydneysider, Sanjeev Mehra.
Mehra, a Bollywood veteran with over 35 years in the film industry teamed up with a very talented Neeru Singh. Neeru as ‘Indie’ and Mehra as ‘Ozzie’, both dressed in traditional Marathi costumes, took the audience through a fun filled hour, bringing forth issues between the cultures of both countries. The dialogues were clever and funny, and despite a few sound issues, had the audience in splits. This was definitely one of the best entertainment sections seen for a while in local Indian functions. Interspersed were songs from Vinod Rajput, particularly his clever take on the popular Australian chant “Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie” and others; while Mohit Kumar, Priya Rao and Ajay Ghosh, dances from Road to Bollywood, and Tamil dance groups kept the audience entertained.
Politicians from both sides were present to show their support for the Indian community’s celebrations. Michelle Rowland MP, Member for Greenway – representing Ms Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia; Ms Louise Markus MP, Federal Member for Macquarie representing the Tony Abbott, Leader of the Opposition; the Victor Dominello, MP, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister for Citizenship and Communities representing the Barry O’Farrell, Premier of NSW; the John Robertson, MP, Member for Blacktown and leader of the NSW Opposition; Nihal Gupta, Chair of the NSW Multicultural Business Advisory Panel were present. Also, adding a cricketing flavour to the evening was Geoff ‘Henry’ Lawson, test cricketer, former captain of NSW cricket team, and former coach for the Pakistan Cricket Control Board.
In her address, Michelle Rowland spoke of the growing number of Indian-born Australians in Blacktown, and the importance which Australia places on India, reinforced by the Prime Minister’s Asian Century paper. With the election’s in September and Rowland’s slender hold on her seat of Greenway, it was a good opportunity for her to be seen out and about in the community. Louise Markus also laid down the Liberal party’s intentions for the Indian community at the function, emphasising that it was her party under John Howard who had wanted to sell uranium to India as they had full faith in India’s responsible handling of this resource. Victor Dominello, with boyish charm, had the listeners captivated as he spoke about his fascination with India and the time he has spent there. He also reaffirmed his leader’s faith in India by confirming that later this year, Premier O’Farrell will undertake his third visit to India in so many years.
CIA President Subba Rao Varigonda spoke about the shared interest in the Indian Ocean and stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region. He also noted the brutal rape incident in Delhi in December, and the guests stood in silence as a mark of respect.
CIA shared the evening with ‘SIMaid’, a charity organisation that assists in rescuing girls off the street and provides safe homes in India and the rest of the world. Part of the ticket sales and proceeds from a raffle netting $1,350 were donated to the organisation. Madeline Laxroix, senior manager from the department of family and community services also spoke about the issue of domestic violence and urged the community to speak out against it.
At the function, as a part of its Rising Star Awards program, the CIA honoured a number of high achievers at the HSC 2012 examinations. The students felicitated included Shruti Yardi, Sandhya Srinivasan, Bhavya Nanda, Nikhil Kankarla, Jotsana Raghavulu, Jainoor Kaur Rana and Megh Mankad.
While the speeches and the messages were rather drawn out, the ambiance of the function was well appreciated by all. What needs to be applauded is the team which Subba Rao has created in this organisation, with Praful Desai, Shail Wadhwa, Balu Vijay, Rakesh Puri, Jaspreet Chopra, Tony Calaco, Ashish Desai and Mohit Kumar.