By Dr Indrani Ganguly
On Monday, 20th March 2017, the Federation of Indian Communities of Queensland Inc. (FICQ) hosted a very successful Queensland Indian community welcome to the new High Commissioner of India to Australia, His Excellency Dr Ajay M. Gondane with dinner at Yashraj Indian Restaurant. The event was attended by over 70 people from the member organisations, patrons, community leaders, business representatives and their families. The MC was Mr Jim Varghese, patron and long-time supporter of FICQ.
The evening began with Mr Navin Kumar, Festival Coordinator advising attendees that the 2017 Diwali festival would be in held in King George Square on 6 October. The Diwali festival has been gaining in popularity ever since it began.
Mr Palanichami O. Thevar, President, FICQ, formally welcomed the High Commissioner and acknowledged the traditional elders as well as the community elders and leaders. He said this was a proud day for the High Commissioner. India is a country with diversity of faiths, languages and cultures but still united. People of Indian origin from Fiji, South Africa and elsewhere were also part of the Indian diaspora.
Mr Thevar gave a brief history of FICQ which was established in 1998. He said the growth of the organisation could be illustrated by the fact that when he came toQueensland he was able to recognise man people from India or of Indian origin. Today, with the growth of the community, it was very hard for him to do so. The statistics did not give a true picture of people of Indian origin living in Queensland.
Mr Thevar noted that the visits of the High Commissioners were good omens for Queensland as they brought much needed rain. ‘It was raining when Mr Navdeep Suri first came, and the same with Mr Gondane’s visit’. He concluded by emphasising that FICQ has always had a strong working relationship with the High Commission.
Mrs Archana Singh, Honorary Consul of India, continued the welcome to the High Commissioner, emphasising the sunny disposition of the people of Queensland, even though the weather was not sunny.
His Excellency, Dr Gondane, then took the floor. He said it was a good time to strengthen Australian interest in India and vice versa, despite setbacks. He pointed out that Australia was a wealthy country with an average income of $66,000, with many opportunities to turn savings into investments and investment into profit. Australia was fortunate to have peace for many decades. It had provided opportunities to many by its own capability to develop in education, research, increase agricultural production and better use of scarce resources like water. These capabilities needed to be tapped into to fill gaps in India’s developmental process. India is growing but not at the rate desired to bring the vast mass of people above the poverty line.
Dr Gondane noted that Indians appeared to have integrated well into Australia, he had not heard many complaints. Indians have brought in lots of colour, fragrance and verve to Australia. He noted the Federation and other associations had very good relations with the High Commission because the community was the High Commission. ‘The High Commission is the extension of the community…we need each other.’
Dr Gondane also emphasised that the High Commissioner has an obligation which is not easy to meet. ‘Nowhere can you conduct yourself loosely’. He congratulated all those present, said he was sure that all would meet their obligations to the best of their ability, all would gain the respect of the community. ‘If some-one is falling on the wayside, it is our obligation to assist them. There is an individual and a collective obligation to help. ‘The pain of the little finger is the pain of the whole body’.
Following the High Commissioner’s speech, there was a short Question and Answer process. Dr Gondane emphasised that there was a huge reform process on in India and generic issues were easier to pose to the authorities back home.
Mr Nikhil Reddy then gave the Vote of Thanks. Attendees were invited to have their photographs taken with the High Commissioner before proceeding to have dinner and mingle with each other.
Overall, there were many expressions of appreciation that FCQ had managed to host a very successful event at very short notice and accommodate all those who wished to attend.