The 6th Australian Hindu National Conference held in Adelaide in early September was an outstanding event and brought together the Hindu community from various countries. The theme of the conference was ‘Strengthening Communities, Stronger Australia’ and it certainly met its objectives of “bringing together Hindus of the world” and pledge to “fortify the Hindu community and contribute to strengthen the broader Australian communities.”
The conference started with a traditional welcome to country by a Kaurna elder and beautiful Hindu prayers by children and adults. The chief guest was the Governor of South Australia, Hieu Van Le, and the dais was graced by the Minister of Multicultural Affairs, several Members of Parliament, SA Leader of Opposition, federal members of parliament, local council members, mayors etc.
It was attended by leaders of the Hindu community from India, Nepal, Bhutan, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and by pretty much every Hindu organisation in Adelaide! Hence it was very successful in bringing together all these varied organisations. It was a good opportunity for the audience to learn about these organisations and their activities.
After a knowledgeable inaugural speech and souvenir release by the Governor, in which he praised the Hindu community in South Australia, Rajendra Pandey, President of VHP in South Australia, gave an excellent keynote address elaborating on the need to strengthen our own community and also contribute to a prosperous and stronger Australia. He spoke of the Hindu tenets of the world as one family (Vasudhaiva kutumbakam) and Sanathana dharma and called on all to identify as Hindu Australians.
“Dharma is not a religion, it is not a tradition, it is not a culture, it is not ethnicity, it is not a nationality, it is not a faith, it is not even a way of life. Dharma means ‘that which sustains’. There is no word in English or any other language that accurately conveys the real meaning of Dharma,” he said.
Swami Vigyananand, International Coordinator and Joint General Secretary VHP Bharat, chaired the session ‘Collaboration among Hindu Organisations Temples and Associations’. He opened his speech with a fiery criticism of the advertisement for lamb featuring Ganesha and circulated a letter of protest for all to sign. During his address, he explained the purpose of HOTA (Hindu Organisations Temples and Associations) and appealed to more than 40 organisations, associations and temples attending, to work together. HOTA SA was launched on the occasion. The conference also saw the launch of two other VHP divisions in South Australia; Vedic and Cultural Centre of Australia (VCCA) and the Hindu Women’s Forum.
Youth participation in the conference was highly evident not only in the volunteers making sure everything ran smoothly, but also in an outstanding Youth Section wherein a panel of 7 young people spoke on topics ranging from faith on campus to how Hindu community organisations create leadership and team spirit among our youth. One of the most impressive speakers was Sushyanth Subramanian from VHP, Northern Territory, who spoke on Hindu Human Rights.
There were at least 5 panel discussions and presentation sessions by various organisations which were interesting and informative. The conference provided a platform to more than 40 community organisations, temples and associations attending the conference to share their vision, mission and activities. All these organisations also shared their ideas on how the Hindu community could work unitedly to strengthen their communities and make Australia stronger.
The conference was highly appreciated by all. Zoe Bettison, Minister for Multicultual Affairs, described it on her Facebook page as a “wonderful, vibrant event and an excellent opportunity to engage with South Australia’s proud Hindu community.”
On the Monday after the event, Tony Zappia, Federal Member for Makin made a speech in Parliament about the conference. An excerpt from the speech –
Hindu contribution extended across all walks of Australian life, but I particularly acknowledge the focus Hindus have had on professional and postgraduate professions. Professional and higher education levels amongst Hindus greatly exceed the national average, and it is a great credit to the Hindu people that they place such importance on education. Through those professions, the Hindu community has enriched, strengthened and advanced Australia. Simultaneously, the Hindu community has initiated its own community participation programs, including but not limited to education, culture, sport, children’s programs, welfare and the environment. It’s remarkable how varied is the input of Hindus in Australian everyday life.
He concluded his speech in Federal Parliament with these words: “The VHP focus on that theme is a wonderful example of our Hindu migrants’ commitment to Australia’s future and their allegiance to Australia, and shows that they want to see Australia grow and prosper. I thank the VHP for their warm welcome to the conference, for the very professional way in which the conference was managed, and for showing how Australian Hindu people can contribute even more to Australia’s future. In particular, I commend the national president, Subramanian Ramamoorthy, and the state president, Rajendra Pandey, for their leadership of the association.”
Praise indeed! And well deserved for a conference that lived up to its theme and aims of initiating a collaborative model for working together as a united community.