Premier is all ears to Indian community issues

Premier Barry O’Farrell talks to TIDU in an exclusive interview on Auburn Temple attacks and Hindi language

By Neena Badhwar

Having swept to power in NSW in an unprecedented rebuff to the long reign by Labor, the new Premier Barry O’Farrell has an unenviable task ahead of maintaining the faith the electorate has entrusted in him. There has been a shift in voting preferences not only by the mainstream public but also by the ethnic communities whose support is conspicuous in Liberal wins in Parramatta and Strathfield among many others throughout the State.   The Indian Down Under asked the premier some questions relevant to the multicultural NSW landscape.

TIDU:   Mr O’Farrell, we congratulate you on becoming the premier of NSW ”“ a state which is vibrant due to its multicultural mix. They have all supported you whole heartedly to bring about the change? Would you like to comment on your win?

Premier: Thank you very much. There is no doubt the record vote for the Liberal and National Parties included strong support from the State’s ethnic communities. It is heartening to see so many of those culturally diverse seats in western Sydney have been won by the Liberal Party for the first time – we are determined not to let them down.

TIDU:   Who in your team is looking after the portfolio for ethnic communities and their issues?

Premier: Victor Dominello is the Minister for Citizenship and Communities. Victor has been a first class local member for the people of Ryde and he will be an excellent Minister for, and advocate on behalf of,  ethnic communities in NSW.

TIDU:   In regards to Indian communities there are a couple of serious issues which have come to fore ”“ one very serious incident among them is a shooting attack on a Hindu temple in Auburn. There have been ongoing attacks at the premises, stones being thrown at glass windows, eggs, rubbish and money stolen from its donation box. There are always abuses and obscenities being hurled. But the law and order institutions have failed to curb the miscreants. Previous government local MP Barbara Perry had a meeting with the concerned Indian community and the temple held an open day in January for the locals but of no avail. What are you going to do since it is a severe law and order problem for the temple and its followers who include families with young children. They have been coming to this place of worship for the last 34 years.

Premier: These incidents are obviously very frightening and I am concerned about what is happening. I have confidence in the local police who are investigating these incidents and when the perpetrators are caught, I have no doubt the police will throw the full force of the law at them. In regards to promoting harmony in our society, that is something that myself and Minister Dominello feel very strongly about and will be an ongoing focus for my Government.

TIDU:   It is important that this problem is nipped in the bud and does not turn into a big issue like the one concerning Indian students. This affected education industry in Australia quite badly and strained relations between India and Australia.

Premier: Absolutely. India and Australia have a very strong relationship and that is something I want to foster in NSW for the cultural and economic opportunities it presents. Readers of The Indian Down Under know how strengthening relations with India are a key element of my plan to  make NSW number one again. In February last year I led a delegation to Mumbai where I met with senior government officials and business leaders and I plan to return to India  later this year to promote greater trade and investment in NSW.

TIDU: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is responsible for a national curriculum from kindergarten to Year 12 and has come up with a draft shape paper for introducing languages into national curriculum in four stages. Chinese, Italian, French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Vietnamese languages are in the proposed stages of developing while Hindi  language has been overlooked. Although ACARA is working towards a national initiative to introduce languages into school curriculum, what kind of support we can expect from your government to help us get Hindi into ACARA’s  Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Languages. Hindi speaking community is growing in Australia at a fast pace with number of migrants from India ranked third among the total intake. Hindi being among the top ten languages spoken in NSW and Australia, it is important that it is introduced as a language subject along with other languages which have been considered in the draft shape paper.

Premier: I believe there is merit in the Indian communities’ campaign. There are strong cultural and economic ties between our two nations and we should be giving more young people the opportunity to learn Hindi. With the emergence of India as an economic power that can only help Australia in the long term. NSW alone cannot change the national curriculum; so it’s something my Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli will have to discuss with his federal and state colleagues.

TIDU:   Prior to election TIDU asked you whether you would help the Indian community to establish a centre and a piece of land. You had asked for a proposal from the community if you came into power.  When would you be able to give us time so that we can discuss such a proposal? Or can you suggest who should we contact and meet on your behalf about this issue?

Premier: Minister Dominello would be the appropriate person.

TIDU:   Diwali  at Parliament House which has become a yearly annual event for the Indian community, Parramasala ”“ a multicultural Art Festival in Parramatta which started last year and a cultural grant to UIA ”“ an umbrella Indian organization which holds Friendship Fair in August ”“ can the Indian community expect all these to continue with assistance from your government on an ongoing basis?

Premier: The Government will provide ongoing support to these important events for the Indian community.

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