“Respect the people, places and laws of the country you choose to call your home. Try to improve on what’s there, but don’t try to create your old home at your new home.”
These golden words of advice from his father have stayed with Melbourne’s Shashi Kochhar ever since he migrated to Australia from India in 1978.
Receiving an OAM in this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours is a huge privilege, according to him.
“It makes me feel humbled, privileged and further motivated to continue doing my community service,” Shashi told Indian Link.
“Each day I wake up more energised to see how my dream of giving back to the community is being fulfilled,” said the septuagenarian.
Shashi laughingly shared that his friends often tell him ‘he is different’.
Some acquaintances even joke about ‘forgetting their wallets at home’, in case Shashi has yet another cause which needs some contribution.
He takes it all in his stride with good humour, because he is on an ongoing mission.
He wants to ensure that the future generation is happy and for that he is prepared to clean up parks of waste and rubbish, walk miles to raise funds, plant trees, donate blood and stand on streets collecting tin box donations.
As the founder of Friends of Children Foundation, Shashi has helped raise millions of dollars for Monash Children Hospital and Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
Established in 1998, this not-for-profit works with organisations that provide better health and education for the citizens of tomorrow.
Shashi laments the damage caused by parents of his generation, for not teaching their children about looking after the environment.
“We may be living in the lucky country, but we need to look after it and help maintain it. We need to give more to this country that has supported and rewarded us,” he emphasised.
He believes that for communities to prosper and sustain, all young people should be valued, engaged and supported. He strongly encourages people to volunteer in various ways and involve young children to inspire them as good role models.
He walks the talk by leading a cleaning campaign for Clean Up Australia Day every year and organising 24-km charity walks since 2012. He has donated blood over 145 times and delivered bread to aged care, asylum centres and other needy places for years.
With his appointment as Justice of Peace, he has plenty of opportunities to contribute by volunteering his services to provide an integral link in the judicial system. As a JP, he has signed over 30,000 documents for people till date.
Shashi believes in one god but feels that faith has somewhere along the years, overpowered cultures.
As current chairperson of the Monash Interfaith gathering, he supports collaborative relationships with various faiths and beliefs committed to working towards understanding, respect, peace and dignity.
His passion for community work has been recognised by various awards and recommendations including Sir John Monash Award, Multicultural Champion Category, City of Monash, 2018 and Sir John Monash Community Service Award, City of Monash, 2007.
Abiding by his father’s parting words, Shashi has spent most of his working and retired life ‘paying back’ and showing respect to the society he lives in. The impact of this amazing volunteer is extraordinarily positive: with his compassion and unselfish caring and unconditional love for his fellow human beings, Shashi has gone on to become one of the most loved personalities in Melbourne’s Indian community. The world definitely needs more of his tribe.