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First Indian Liberal for Canberra

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Indian Liberal candidate to contest ACT elections, reports RITAM MITRA

The next year or so promises to be an extremely interesting period on the Australian political front. Given the scale of the fight ahead, and the events that have transpired in Canberra in the last few months, when the election is called, it will definitely be a hugely anticipated one. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype over the possibility of a new leader for the country – but it’s important not to overlook the fact that it will begin with a series of smaller, albeit no less intense, battles on the local stage.

The Canberra Liberals recently finalised candidates for the territory’s October 2012 election, for which there will be 17 seats up for grabs. The party will be creating some of its own history when its first candidates of Korean and Indian origin will be amongst the names on the ballot sheet in October. Jacob Vadakkedathu’s will be one of those names, and for him, it is yet another feather in the cap following an already distinguished history of community service.

Indians are the fourth most prominent migrant nationality in Australia, behind only the UK, neighbours New Zealand and China. In 2008-09, Australia’s Indian-born population recorded the fastest growth of any group in the country, increasing by a phenomenal 17%. In the most recent census, over 340,000 Australian residents identified as Indian-born, and for the second-most represented non-Anglo community in the country, it is welcome news that the Liberal Party of Australia is welcoming its first Indian candidate, after almost 70 years since it was founded.

Given Australia’s reputation for being a multicultural society, and a correct one at that, the under-representation of MPs from a diverse range of cultures is somewhat surprising. In the 2006 Census, 24% of residents were reported as being born outside of Australia – yet Penny Wong, Australia’s current Minister for Finance and Deregulation, became the first Asian-born Federal Minister as recently as 2007.

All changes begin with a single step, though, and it is a commendable achievement for the father of two. Jacob was born in Kollam, Kerala, and came to Canberra in 1998, completing his Masters at the University of Canberra, all the while remaining involved actively in the community. He is currently the President of the Federation of Indian Associations of the ACT (FINACT), the umbrella body of all Indian associations in the territory. Meanwhile, he holds the position of Secretary with the Gungahlin Community Council, is an executive member of the Canberra Multicultural Community Forum, and has also volunteered with the ACT State Emergency Services.

Jacob will be amongst three other candidates, as well as two incumbent members of the Legislative Assembly, representing the electorate of Ginninderra, and is looking forward to campaigning and meeting many people in the process of doing so. Currently working for the Australian government in the Department of Finance, Jacob will be part of a team headed by leader Zed Seselja, who was looking forward to the upcoming election.

Mr Seselja said the new candidates would add to the “strong and unified team in the Assembly”’. “Along with the diverse experiences of our team, we have many cultures represented including what we believe are the first candidates of Indian and Korean background to run in an ACT election,” he said. ”They have close ties to their local communities and are committed to our plan of being the best local government in Australia.

Although becoming a candidate is a difficult enough task, the journey is just beginning for Jacob – for he could well be celebrating another slice of history in October this year. Congratulations are already in order, but it is time to look forward and aim for the sky – good luck, Jacob, and happy campaigning!

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