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Vic Premier’s Diwali Reception celebrates community

Held at the Centrepiece, 1200 attendees from all over the South Asian diaspora enjoyed a celebratory and culturally affirming night.

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For the second year in a row, the State Government held a Premier’s Diwali reception, cementing the words of Former Premier Dan Andrews at last year’s reception to make this an annual event.

This time, it was a bigger and brighter affair held at the Centrepiece in Melbourne Park, with the guest list burgeoning to over 1200 attendees.

Movers and shakers of the South Asian community from all over the country were in attendance, and it was wonderful to see such a wide range of Hindu, Jain and Sikh diaspora represented at the event.

A whopping 1200 people attended the event! (Source: Lakshmi Ganapathy)

The night commenced with a prayer to Lord Ganesha, and a Welcome to Country from Wurundjeri man Daniel Ross reflecting on the Poorneet season, a time of flowering, resonated strongly with the values of Diwali.

A multitude of dignitaries including Victorian Multicultural Commissioner Vivian Nguyen, Deputy Opposition leader David Southwick, Indian Consul General Sushil Kumar each lit the ceremonial diyas, signalling the beginning of an auspicious Premier’s Diwali.

The MC for the evening, journalist Shuba Krishnan, then welcomed priests from the Carrum Downs Shiva Vishnu Temple and Rockbank’s Sri Durga Temple to perform Lakshmi Puja. With help from the priests, Premier Jacinta Allan participated with enthusiasm, reverently holding aarti to the idols on stage.

Dancers in orange costumes have their arms spread out as they dance.
Dancers lit up the stage with their bright costumes and moves. (Source: Lakshmi Ganapathy)

The Nadanalaya Academy of Dance performed an enchanting Bharatanatyam dance piece representing Lord Ram’s journey, whilst attendees enjoyed their entrees and (non-alcoholic) drinks. Then, it was time for the speeches…

Ingrid Stitt, Minister for Multicultural Affairs was first up, giving a well-meaning but awkward address on the origins of Diwali, trying her best to wrangle the difficult to pronounce words. She described diversity as the state’s greatest strength and noted how the guest count at the event had doubled from last year, a ‘testament to the community’.

Following her was Jacinta Allan, Premier of Victoria, who warmly observed the shared story of Victoria.

“We are celebrating culture, we are celebrating family and friendship, we are celebrating our strong and proud Indian community here in Victoria,” she said.

People on stage exchanging gifts in traditional Indian costumes.
Gifts were presented on stage. (Source: Lakshmi Ganapathy)

Allan emphasised the need to keep stories and culture alive, citing the Government’s commitment to the Bilingual Kindergarden Multicultural Storytime initiative, and to set up three beacon schools teaching VCE Hindi and Punjabi.

Makrand Bhagwat, Director of the Victorian chapter of The Hindu Council of Australia, rounded off the speeches, commenting on the significance of the feminine divine in Navratri, and its aptness for a female premier and multicultural minister. He then presented the Ministers with a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a lovely gesture of generosity bridging cultures.

Finally, the Cardinia Gujarati Association performed an energetic Garba dance, signalling the end of official proceedings. Dr Sarita McHarg and Rithvik Chand played sonorous Carnatic music on stage as the staff commenced the herculean task of serving the room their mains, modern Indian fine dining fusion renditions of Tandoori Cauliflower and Achari Baingan.

Dancers dressed in orange and pink clothes dance on stage.
Traditional Gujarati dance closed the night (Source: Lakshmi Ganapathy)

There was plenty of time then for guests, who were dressed to the nines, to mingle and pose for photos with the Premier at decorated photo spots in the foyer.

Celebration was in the air, and the community was filled with reverence, joy and festive spirit. This year’s Premier’s Diwali reception was a successful, culturally affirming event, emphasising unity and the triumph of light over dark in true Diwali fashion.

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Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy is an emerging journalist and theatre-maker based in Melbourne.

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