House debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Grievance Debate

Holt Electorate: Indian Community

5:36 pm

Photo of Anthony ByrneAnthony Byrne (Holt, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise once more in this place to talk about the enormous contribution that has been made to my electorate, to my state and to our country by those who were born in India and have come to make this country their home. As you would know, Deputy Speaker Andrews, particularly from when you were a very capable minister for immigration, we have a very rapidly growing Indian community, many of whom have come to settle in my constituency of Holt. According to the 2016 census, the Indian-born population in Australia has grown to 455,389. That's up from the 295,000 recorded in the 2011 census. Of Australia's 25 million people, 1.9 per cent were born in India. The 2016 census showed that Victoria had the highest number of residents born in India, totalling 169,802, including 14,717 who were born in India and reside in my constituency. Along with showing an increase in the number of people born in India who live in Australia, the 2016 census revealed how Indian languages have grown in Australia. Hindi came out as the top Indian language spoken at home in Australia, with 159,652 speakers, with Punjabi a close second at 132,496. There were also big jumps in the number of speakers of Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, Gujarati, Telugu, Marathi and Kannada.

Those are statistics and numbers, but they represent people who were born in India and have come to this country. They are part of the success of our country and where our country will go. Australia has a lot to offer people who come to this country, abide by our laws and our values, make this country their home and create a future for themselves. In my engagement with the Indian community in all its forms, from whichever part of India they come, there is an abiding and deep love of education. There is a deep commitment to the community. Also, from the number of festivals that I attend and participate in, there is a great sense of inclusiveness. People who come to this country from India make Australia their home. I use as an example a City of Casey citizenship ceremony I attended recently, where we had I think 225 residents who became new citizens of our country. We had the pleasure of meeting each one of those people after they had become a citizen. The enthusiasm for our country, particularly from those who were born in India, and their hopes and dreams about what they wanted for their children and their families was what struck me. So they not only make Australia their home but bring the unique richness of their culture, history and values to our country, and that makes our country a better place.

In particular, I'll single out a grouping that I've had the pleasure of dealing with, the Casey Garba, a team that was led by Sepal Kumar Patel, Nikul Patel, Suresh Patel, Yogi Patel and Manish Patel. I awarded them a 2018 Holt Australia Day Award. Casey Garba is a festival that has been celebrated under the banner of the Casey multicultural festival association in Cranbourne over the past two years. This association was formed in 2016 to organise multicultural festivals with a variety of cultural groups for the purpose of engaging with the wider community in Casey and beyond. That is inclusiveness—bringing their culture into ours and making our country richer as a consequence of that.

This organisation has celebrated many festivals since its formation, including Holi, Vasakhi, Lohari, Diwali and Garba. One of the key festivals of the organisation is Casey Garba, and in 2017 it attracted over 1,500 people. I had the pleasure of being there as their special guest. They represent the Gujarati community, and I thank them for sharing their culture and values. We are looking at the future of Australia when we see these people. They talk about our country with passion and pride—with the exception, perhaps, of a discussion about the cricket, but we can have differences of opinion from time to time! They make an amazing contribution to our community.

I particularly wanted to single out another organisation that I had the pleasure of dealing with, which was the Berwick Ayalkoottam. These are people from the Malayalee community from the state of Kerala. When I was conducting community safety forums in the outer south-eastern suburbs in June 2016, this community was amazingly supportive of what I was attempting to achieve. I believe that, as a consequence of the advocacy of this particular grouping—particularly given the representations they made, in a respectful way—the Andrews government announced an increase in the level of policing in that region and also greater numbers of people recruited into the police force. That was because of the positive advocacy of this particular grouping. The people who have come from Kerala have made an enormous contribution to our country and to our local community.

That's what makes me grieve tonight over what's happening in Kerala at the present period of time. I have many people in my constituency who were born in Kerala and who have come and made this country their home. What they're seeing in Kerala is causing them great concern because, as you would know Deputy Speaker Andrews, having worked with the Coptic community when you were immigration minister, they see people that are being killed who they may have some relationship with.

So far, from the statistics that we know about, 370 people have been killed, most of them in landslides in the recent flooding that's occurred there. As a consequence of the flooding in Kerala, we are also talking about the establishment of about 5,645 relief camps, because we've had nearly 800,000 people displaced as a consequence of those floods. An enormous disruption has been caused and the damage has been absolutely massive. The survivors at the evacuation centres described spending days without food and water, and, according to BBC News, the head of the state's disaster management team said that they were preparing to deal with a possible outbreak of waterborne and airborne diseases in relief camps.

The Indian government has said the Kerala state is facing the worst flooding that it's seen in 100 years. They've opened about 80 dams so far. What has impressed me the most has been the desire of the local Indian community, in my region and across the state and the country, to proactively raise money to send back to aid the Kerala relief effort. For that, they have to be commended. In that vein, particularly to offer some hope to the constituents who live in my constituency and come from Kerala, I say tonight that I'm happy to work with you, particularly given the contribution that you have made in coming to our country and making our country your home. The community outreach work that is done by organisations like Berwick Ayalkoottam and other organisations is just astonishing. They have Christmas drives. These are people who have come to our country and have enriched our country with their culture. They are an outstanding success story of people who have come from another country and made Australia their home.

I say to those people, particularly those who live in my electorate, that we will working with the City of Casey Council in a bipartisan way to organise a fundraising event. We are hoping to secure Bunjil Place in October. This will be bipartisan. This is not political. This is not Liberal, Labor or anything else. This is about us working together, with whichever form of government we can, to provide assistance, with all of the communities in the Indian community in Victoria coming together to raise money for that specific purpose and to amplify to people the absolute scale of the destruction that's occurred as a consequence of the flooding and the landslides. Also perhaps we will encourage the Australian government to make representations to the Indian government, as federal Labor has done, to provide any support that we can to assist those people who have been badly affected in the state of Kerala. Again I commend the community for the work that it's doing to support the people from Kerala, and I will do my utmost as the local member to help provide that support to them.