By Neeraj Nanda
MELBOURNE, 28 November: In a major initiative to boost its connectivity to the South Asian communities in Victoria the Andrews Labour government has decided to setup a South Asian Ministerial Advisory Council. The announcement was today made by the Multicultural Minister Hon. Robin Scott at a media conference at the Parliament House.
The proposed Council will include Multicultural Minister Hon. Robin Scott, the chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission Helen Kapalos and 25 South Asian community members.
“The community members will include representative’s from Victoria’s Indian, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Nepalese, Bhutanese and the Republic of Maldives communities,” Minister Robin Scott said. The question if Afghans should also be included in the Council will be examined, he said.
Addressing the media Minister Hon. Robin Scott said, “We want all South Asian Victorians to have a say in their future and be empowered to speak out about the challenges they face. South Asian Victorians know the challenges they face and how to best solve them.”
“We want to engage directly with South Asian communities and work together to enrich Victoria’s dynamic multiculturalism,” he said.
This initiative comes in the background of the Victorian Premier Hon. Daniel Andrews recent announcement that the state is developing it’s ‘India Strategy’ to enhance business and trade relations. The Premier is to lead a business delegation to India in January next year.
The rising strength of the South Asian communities in Victoria is being seen as the driving force for the Andrews government’s array of decisions to interact with them and solve issues social and economic facing these communities.
The decision to set up Indian cultural precinct’s in Dandenong and the West and continue to fund the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) were earlier welcomed by the South Asian communities.
VMC Chairperson Helen Kapalos in a media statement says, “Victoria’s diverse South Asian communities contribute to our identity as a vibrant and cohesive society. The VMC
is determined to ensure their voices are heard as they build an even stronger future in Victoria.”
It needs to be mentioned here Mr. Manoj Kumar was recently pre-selected to be the ALP candidate for the prestigious and marginal seat of Forest Hill for the 2018 state elections. Manoj is the first India born South Asian migrant to contest the seat as a Labour candidate. Earlier, Vasan Srinivasan had unsuccessfully contested the seat as a Liberal candidate in 2002.
Talking to SAT, Manoj Kumar said, “I welcome the initiative as this will help the South Asian communities to directly engage with the Victorian government to identify their issues and plan to effectively deal with them.”
“A key objective for the Council will be to develop a South Asian Communities Action Plan – roadmap for the future by identifying and addressing key issues,” says the media release from the office of the multicultural Minister.
Key issues for the South Asian communities include employment, parent’s migration, domestic violence and assimilation in mainstream Australian society. Though another key issue remains the almost no political representation for South Asian’s in elected bodies including the State and federal Parliament.
Victorians interested in nominating for a voluntary Council position can submit an expression of interest and CV to firstname.lastname@example.org by 22 December 2017.