Melbourne’s Jaya Manchikanti, founder of IndianCare, has won the Vic Premier’s Volunteer of the Year award for 2021 for her selfless work supporting the growing Indian community living in Victoria.
Jaya also won the Volunteering Leadership Award for her efforts in establishing IndianCare, a not-for-profit seeking to address the welfare needs of the diverse Indian and South Asian community in Victoria. It has impacted the lives of more than 5000 Victorians to date.
As the Premier’s Volunteer of the Year, Jaya receives the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Award and a $10,000 donation to a not-for-profit organisation of choice. The funds this year will go to IndianCare.
“I am grateful to Volunteering Victoria and the Victorian government for these awards,” Jaya told Indian Link. “I hope to use this platform to enable better outcomes for migrants and refugees. I also wish to bring greater attention to the good work of community service organisations, and increase collaborations, as I believe that will assist towards a more sustainable future.”
Jaya launched IndianCare in 2013. Utilising a strengths-based community development approach, she has led her team to address issues such as the prevention and early intervention of family violence, prevention of alcohol harm, support for South Asian international students, COVID-19 relief and re-building as well as the provision of an information and referral helpline service.
IndianCare has now grown to become a respected agency that works collaboratively with government and other agencies. The board, staff and the volunteers are of Indian heritage, and are a mix of first- and second-generation migrants. They are professionally qualified, tertiary educated, have lived experience as migrants, speak 11 Indian languages and have the ability and experience to provide an empathetic and a culturally sensitive response for warm referrals to mainstream support services.
The team has representation from the various professions seen in the Indian community, such as software development, law, account, health promotion, small business, social work and community development. They work in the growth corridors of Melbourne in the South Eastern and Western suburbs, areas heavily populated with young families of Indian background. Notably, 35% of Australian Indian migrants choose to live in Melbourne, 51% of Indian migrants are families with children. Our community is young (average age 31 years) – they need support post migration and we as the diaspora need to support them.
I myself met Jaya Manchikanti in 2018, when a friend invited me to the AGM of IndianCare. I had just moved from academic research into the community sector. Inspired by Jaya’s President’s speech then, the penny dropped about the urgent need for an organisation such as IndianCare in a community as diverse as ours, with many religions, languages, thinking and socio-economic levels. I got on board soon after.
The IndianCare values of respect, honesty and compassion strive to unite and support without bias. These are the very values that make Jaya the woman she is, and they have become the essence of the platform she has founded.
Jaya is an inspiring leader who works quietly and tirelessly. She has taught me the ethos of community development, importance of active listening, and the value of patience in community engagement. Many times, as I reflect on her advice and experience, I conclude that I have given my best for that moment in time.
For someone who never seeks the spotlight, this moment is truly hers.
Jaya moved to Australia as an 8-year-old in 1970, arriving in Melbourne with her parents and siblings. The family settled in Bendigo during the era of the White Australia Policy.
Currently, Jaya is a PhD candidate at Victoria University. Her topic of research is ‘Examining Australian third sector community development praxis in relation to progressing the Sustainable Development Goals’. She will focus particularly on women, COVID-19 responses, and the marginalised/disadvantaged. This is a critical area needing attention.
Jaya notes, “More recognition is needed for community development in the Third Sector, and progression of the Sustainable Development Goals is needed. Both these issues of community development and sustainable development don’t get enough attention in Australia.”
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