Sydney’s Indian community is awash with the colours of the tricolour as the Independence Day spirit takes over
How the Indian community in Sydney has grown. 20 years ago, the Independence Day celebration was attended by about a hundred people, huddled together as they loudly sang the national anthem. In 2015, there have been at least three functions in the city of Sydney and each has brought in different crowds. While there were a handful of politicians making multiple appearances, largely each of the three programmes attracted different crowds and showed that there is enough community patronage going around to support all such endeavours.
Days before the Council of Indian Australians’ (CIA) Independence Day function, an email went out from the President Praful Desai confirming that the 500-plus seats had all been sold out. Following the formula which has been so successful for CIA in previous years, the dinner program was a mix of Indian cultural celebrations (read Bollywood) tinged with patriotic songs and speeches from invited politicians.
With the Indian community growing in Sydney, a number of businesses, both mainstream and those run by Indian Australians, were out to sponsor the evening. The efforts which the organisers made showed in the decorations, particularly the use of the tricolour, all around the hall. Even the microphones on the stage were adorned in saffron, white and green.
Speaking on the occasion, newly elected President Praful Desai acknowledged the deep bond and pride local Indians feel towards their country of birth, India. He loudly proclaimed the achievements of Indian overseas drawing on the appointment of Sundar Pichai as CEO of Google and of Satya Nadella as CEO of Microsoft.
“Their achievements are great motivations for Indians globally,” he said.
He further emphasised the values which his organisation believes in, those of accountability, integrity and good governance.
Parramatta MP Geoff Lee was warmly welcomed by the crowds. Drawing on his meeting with Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Australia, Lee spoke about how the community came together at All Phones Arena. He also spoke about the work he is doing with the Indian community in the Parramatta area and how Parramatta is transforming into a major hub for Sydney. Lee reiterated the support which the Baird government has given for Parramasala.
Newly elected MP for Prospect, Hugh McDermott was attending his first Indian Australian function and spoke warmly of his trips to India in his previous pre-politics life as a barrister. He acknowledged the contributions which India has made globally. Warming to the audience, he also made a point that had there been some Indian-Australians in the Australian cricket team, perhaps the result of the Ashes would have been different.
The highlight was the strong message on the day of not only celebrating Indian independence, but also supporting White Ribbon Australia, a well-known campaign to stop violence against women.
Supt. Rod Smith from NSW Police spoke about the need for communities to get together to create awareness and wipe this scourge out. A number of attendees enrolled as community ambassadors for White Ribbon and promised to help spread the message.
It was an enjoyable evening, with one memorable takeaway being the little children dressed up in traditional Indian clothes waving the Indian flag on stage, swaying to the music of patriotic songs.
Whatever the politics are behind these events and associations, one needs to acknowledge the positive contributions being made for the next generation of Indian-Australians.
Flag hoisting by Consul General Sunjay Sudhir
Australia is one of the countries where the Independence Day celebrations begin hours before the main event takes place at Red Fort in Delhi. This year, the Sydney flag hoisting was held at a function organised by the Consul General’s office at Concord Function Centre. At this elegant function, the Consul General unfurled the Indian flag and read out the President’s message to his compatriots. He also added his own observations about the local community, acknowledging the strides made by individuals and groups in the mainstream in the past year. Significantly, he paid tribute also to those in their hundreds who work silently on community issues, away from the limelight.
The event has traditionally been held at the home of the Consul General.
“Many have asked why we’ve changed the venue this time round,” he said. “We took this decision based on feedback that it is hard for people to get to the upper north shore at 9am. As well, the more centralised venue, we figured, would allow as many people as possible to attend.”
He was not wrong there. Over 425 people, in a record of sorts, turned up to meet and greet each other on this special day.
In a trend begun some years ago, international students from India were welcomed yet again, in a wonderful gesture to make them feel at home in a new country.
Many were dressed in colours of the cherished tiranga, and they all joined in as the patriotic fervour played out on stage.
A fine afternoon with FIAN
No Indian Independence Day festivities would be complete in our community without a fair.
The Federation of Indian Associations in NSW (FIAN), under the leadership of Yadu Singh, pulled off a fun day at Parramatta with just over 5,000 people in attendance.
With giant Indian flags on the gates along busy O’Connell Street in Parramatta, passing motorists were in no doubt that the Old Kings School parade grounds were a beehive of activity. With fun rides, food and business promotion outlets, the Fair had a constant stream of people attending. There were those who were there for the entire afternoon, and then there were those who lived close by and just decided to drop in and enjoy the atmosphere.
The politicians who were there to celebrate with the community included NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian, NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley, Federal Labor politicians Michelle Rowland and Julie Owens, State politicians from the Liberal party Geoff Lee and Matt Kean, and from the Labor Party Daniel Mookhey and Hugh McDermott.
Much to the delight of the community, Federal Member for Parramatta Julie Owens made a mention of the occasion and the Fair at a speech in Parliament in the following days.