Top Indian origin diplomat among Australia Day honourees

A sneak peek at the Indian-origin achievers named in this year’s Australia Day Honours announced today

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Diplomat Harinder Sidhu, Australia’s High Commissioner to New Zealand and former High Commissioner to India, has been felicitated with an AM in this year’s Australia Day honours.

She leads this year’s list of honourees from amongst Australia’s Indian community. In doing so, she proves yet again, as she says herself, that Australia is a meritocracy.

“When I joined the Foreign Service, it really confirmed in my father’s mind that Australia is a meritocracy, that you don’t have to have privilege or connections, you just have to work hard,” she told Indian Link.

Harinder Sidhu

Her appointment in 2016 as Australia’s High Commissioner to India, came at a particularly crucial time, just as the relationship was coming out of a deep freeze.  Australia Day 2024

“My professional highlight was building layer upon layer of the India-Australia relationship,” Ms Sidhu recounted. “I was working very closely to elevate the relationship to what I call a first-tier relationship. That was something that we articulated in the Australian Foreign Policy White Paper in 2017, and it culminated in the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, which we agreed on soon after my departure in 2020. It was really a shift in the relationship… that ultimately led to the conclusion of Early Harvest Free Trade Agreements after my departure. The shift in our relationship with India is something I feel very satisfied by and honoured to be a part of.”


Joining her on the list of Australia Day awardees this year is ANU academic Professor Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, who was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, AO, a rare honour for someone from our community. It is only one of 38 AOs announced this year.

Prof. Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt’s research is based on people’s lives and livelihoods in natural resource sectors such as mining, water and farming, each of which is seeing tremendous change.

Prof. Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt of Canberra

“These cahnges have flow-through effects not only on environmental sustainability as you might expect, but also on women’s empowerment and gender equality,” Dr Lahiri-Dutt told Indian Link. “When I realised that women are the primary resource managers in families and small communities, it became obvious to me that environment is critical to gender equality.”

Gender is a central theme in her work on natural resource management.

Her work has had global impact and sees her present her advocacy at several national and international agencies like the World Bank and UNDP.


Like every year, medical practitioners are over-represented yet again in this national list of excellence . Two Indian-origin doctors are honoured this year, both from Sydney: paediatric gastroenterologist Dr Ramananda Kamath OAM, and specialist surgeon and professor of surgery, the late Dr Sachint Kumar Lal OAM. Australia Day 2024

Australia Day 2024
Dr Ramananda Kamath of Sydney

Dr Ramananda Kamath, 87, is honoured for his extensive work in paediatric gastroenterology, which includes setting up the first department in Australia for this specialisation at the Children’s Hospital Camperdown (now known as Westmead Children’s Hospital). He also performed the earliest liver transplants in children in Australia.

He may have retired in 2003, but he continues to keep abreast of new developments in his field and talks passionately about current affairs, especially the impact on children. “I am aged, but not old!” he laughed as he spoke to Indian Link.

The late Dr Sachint Kumar Lal of Sydney

The contributions of Dr Sachint Kumar Lal OAM include setting up the Hawkesbury Clinical School at the University of Notre Dame after a career as a distinguished specialist surgeon in the Hawkesbury-Nepean region.

He passed away last year. His psychiatrist son Sharat told Indian Link, “I am sad my father is not around to receive this honour. He would have been very proud and honoured to receive a medal in his adopted homeland. We’re very proud of him.” Australia Day 2024

Read More: Harinder Sidhu AM: Australia is a meritocracy

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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