Written by Dr. Naidu Bodapati, Public Relations Officer and Secretary, AIHWM Committee.
The Australians of Indian Heritage War Memorial (AIHWM) Committee has organised two functions recently in preparation to the unveiling of the Monument on 18 November 2017.
- Gala Dinner on 5 August night at Coorparoo Secondary College, Coorparoo
- Sod-turning function on 12 August at 9 am at RSL Sub-branch, Sunnybank
The democratic way of life that we enjoy today has been preserved and made strong as a result of World Wars (WW) I and II, which were fought against militarist autocracy.
Indian soldiers were part of a part of Britain and the coalition of forces committed to democracy. Indian soldiers were the largest single contingent of all Britain’s colonies and dominions. About 1.3 million Indian soldiers fought and 74,000 lost their lives In the WWI. At Gallipoli 15,000 Indians fought and 1,500 lost their lives. In the WWII 2.5 million Indians fought and 87,000 lost their lives, yet their contribution has been mostly unrecognised.
Most importantly, several soldiers of Indian Heritage actually represented Australia (in additions those millions who represented Britain) in the Wars, whose contribution also went unrecognised.
The Australians of Indian Heritage War Memorial (AIHW) Committee aims to change this situation by erecting a Monument to honour and recognise Indians who sacrificed in the Wars. The following are the activities of the Committee to date.
- Obtained financial commitment of $30,000 from the Federal LNP government
- Raised $15,000 through the first fundraising dinner on 28 May 2016
- Created a bursary for students of Indian diaspora. Symbol Sidhu of St Thomas More College, Sunnybank was the first recipient of $1,000 in October 2016
- In November 2016 the monument design of Ms Bianca Archer was selected (pictured below) from 11 final entries from the Griffith University Architectural students
The Monument will be unveiled in the Memorial Garden of Sunnybank RSL Sub-branch on 18 November 2017.
In preparation to the erecting the Monument, a Gala Dinner was organised on 5 August 2017 to showcase this unique project of building a Monument for the Australians of Indian heritage soldiers who fought for Australia in the Wars I and II. About 250 people of Indian Diaspora and supporters of this project attended the dinner.
Dr Naidu Bodapati was the Master of Ceremonies and the function started with the National Anthems of both Australia and India. Mr. Surendra Prasad OAM, Chairperson of AIHWM and Mr Hugh Polson, President of RSL Sub-branch Sunny bank spoke about the project and the design for the Monument as shown in the picture below.
A partial list of the dignitaries include Mr Ross Vasta MP, Federal Member for Bonner, representing Federal Government; Mr Duncan Pegg MP, representing Hon Grace Grace, Minister for Multicultural Affairs; Graham Perrett MP, Federal member for Morton; Mr Anthony Shorten representing Cr Kim Marx Councillor for Runcorn and Lord Mayor of Brisbane; RSL Sub-branch Sunnybank Executives and members, the Executive Committee of FICQ including the President Palani Thevar, and the Australians of Chinese Heritage War Memorial Committee. Several patriotic cultural programs were also a part of the dinner function.
One of the highlights was the presentation on the involvement of Indian army at Gallipoli by Col Jo Matthews, who retired from Indian defence Force.
The AIHWM Committee thanks the sponsors of the Gala Dinner Dr. Maha Sinnathamby of Springfield Land Corporation and Mr Ram Karri of Neibourhood Tax Agents and Accountants, and several donors for the raffle prize items.
On 12 August 2017 the Sod-turning ceremony or Bhoomi Pooja for the construction of the Monument commenced at 9 am at RSL Sub-branch, Sunnybank. After the Australian Anthem, leaders of multifaith: Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim conducted prayers. Mr Surendra Prasad, Chairperson of AIHWM and Mr Hugh Polson, President of RSL Sub-branch Sunnybank, and Mrs Archana Singh, Honorary Consul of India spoke of the importance of the Monument in recognition of the fallen Australian Soldiers of Indian Heritage. Sod-turning was performed by Mr Prasad, Mr Polson, and Mrs Singh. The members of AIHWM Committee were in attendance along with Mr Duncan Pegg MP, Cr. Kym Marx, Mr Anthony Shorten, and a representative of Queensland Police.
The AIHWM Committee extends invitation to attend the unveiling of the Memorial in the Memorial Garden of Sunnybank RSL Sub-branch on 18 November 2017.