Beth Shalini Perera, Holroyd Council E Ward


Charisma Kaliyanda Liverpool; Dilip Chopra, Hornsby Ward A; Gurdeep Singh Hornsby Ward E; John Niven Parramatta Phillip Arthur Ward; Sukhwant Singh Sidhu Parramatta Phillip Arthur Ward; Raj Datta Strathfield; Susai Benjamin Blacktown Ward 3


By Neena Badhwar

Local Council Elections have become a hot battleground for contestants from the Indian subcontinent, seemingly in their new incarnation. More than twenty candidates are in the arena, some propped by major parties in a vote dividing strategy or to attract the migrant vote while there are several others contesting the election on their own as independents from various councils.

The sudden Indian interest in politics, albeit at the lowest rung, is a welcome sign that the community is now maturing and is not merely content being in stupor of the bread and butter issues of survival. They have now graduated from local community politics to the wider multicultural issues, realizing fully well that standing on the sidelines alone is not good enough for the growth of the community.

There are 152 councils in NSW and elections are being conducted in 150 among them. Of these, 136 are being conducted by the Electoral Commission. There are 3791 candidates in all standing in the elections with 4.7 million eligible voters on the electoral roll who must vote to elect their favorite candidate and put them in the local council office as councillors or even for the top job as their mayor. The candidates must be enrolled for the council area or the ward they represent. And they should have two nominators to nominate them to go through the electoral process of standing in the elections.

While there are large isolated areas in the north-west corner of the state which need not be managed by Councils, in Sydney there is plethora of issues like local roads and parks, libraries and developments that have to be managed by the local Shires. The issues affect the residents at the grass root level and oftentimes are inflamed by conflicting interests that need to be resolved for the overall benefit of the community.

The councils seem to function still in old archaic modes of providing for the services without realizing the changing landscape and the newly arrived migrant communities that are growing and have different set of needs than what is currently available.

The Indian Down Under talked to some of the candidates who have been working for months doing the rounds at various community events to woo the voters. Many among them are young, vibrant, energetic and willing to take the plunge.


Beth Shalini Perera, who, incidentally, used to be one of TIDU’s youth writers, is contesting for Holroyd council ”“ E Ward and represents the Multi-Cultural Unity Party. “I am looking forward to injecting energy and my unrelenting dedication into the community which is quite sizeable in number being almost 20 per cent in and around Westmead, South Wentworthville, Merrylands, Granville, Mays Hill and Holroyd area,” says Shalini.

“Most of these voters are in the 25 ”“ 39 years age bracket with young families. So their issues are good childcare facilities, car parking around train stations and I sincerely want to support small local business. But above all I have listened to concerns of personal safety by these people and that is my major concern too. I have done a lot of work and it has been quite exhausting for the last one month when I have gone door to door and shop to shop talking to people and finding out what they would want from me. Luckily, I have very supportive husband in Ritchie Perera and it is quite exciting to put in my worth in helping to improve the quality of life of my people in my electorate,” she says.

Shalini was born in Fiji and came to Australia with her Indian parents when she was one month old. She is now married to Ritchie Perera of Sri Lankan origin and understands the multiracial community structure in the area.

“The only way for us to move forward is when we all work together and aim as one community to achieve and move forward regardless of race, colour or religion. We all came here for better life and we must work and aim for it by contributing to the society in ways that benefit us all as one,” she says.

Shalini has done a degree in Communications and works for Ausgrid and has been involved in charity activities for Red Cross, Father Riley’s Youth off the streets, Cancer Council, I-India Project and World Wild Life Organisation.


Gurdeep Singh is running as a Liberal candidate from Ward ”˜B’ of the Hornsby Shire Council.

He runs a Civil Engineering company in the Shire and likes helping people as a service provider.

“I would like to diversify into a different way of serving the community as a great supporter of Liberal policies. We need to be transparent and accountable and aim to help improve amenities,” he says.

“Specifically for the Indian community I would like the recently set up migrant Resource Centre to contribute more to the multicultural communities and their related needs. As a councilor I will make sure that more funds are allocated and provided for the senior citizens of the Indian community so that they can appropriately spend time and engage in meaningful activities for a healthy old age,” says Gurdeep.


Dilip Chopra has been a pioneer in the Indian community having served as a Councillor in the Hornsby Shire in the last term. He is running for the coveted job again, seeking reelection as a candidate for the Liberal party from Ward ”˜A’.

“I have always been an advocate of multiculturalism and community togetherness. As a former Vice-President of the UIA I have strived to promote the importance of Indian Australians and their contribution to the area. While serving the council with dignity and serving the shire in different sectors such as aged care and disability I have always spoken up for my community in our shire meetings,” Dilip says.

Liverpool is one area which has strong Indian presence in terms of people and a strong Indian business community with shops and businesses dealing in Indian clothes, wares, food and spices. People from all over Sydney come to shop in Liverpool as it has turned into a ”˜Little India’ of the west. There are two candidates of Indian descent from this area.

Young Charisma Kaliyanda represents the Liverpool Labor team. She feels that the Indian community is an integral part of Liverpool. “We feel that the Council should reflect the diversity of the community it represents. Our team seeks to do so and we have two candidates of Indian descent, myself and Rajesh Kumar.

“Our main aim, if elected to the Council, will be to bring local government back to the community. We need to keep services such as childcare, libraries and parks in public hands so that they can be accessed and enjoyed by everyone. We believe that it is in the best interests of the wider Liverpool community to have quality services that are affordable and accessible. The Liverpool Labor team also wants to return the focus of the Council to traditional local government functions such as road maintenance, town planning and waste disposal,” Charisma says.


Balaji Venkataraghvan is on Labor Party ticket standing from the East Holroyd City Council from the East ward that covers areas of Merrylands, Merrylands West, Mayshill, Parramatta, Westmead, Wentworthville and South Wentworthville. He is originally   from Bangalore but of Tamil background.

He is an active community leader who is confident, ambitious, pro-active with energetic outlook and is passionate for the arts, the film and cultural activities. He also strongly believes in advancing the cause of the disadvantaged people.

“I am extremely concerned about over development with Holroyd City Council without adequate infrastructure. There has been rapid change in the structure of the population within the Holroyd City Council region and this rapid change has not reflected in change of service for these people,” he says.

Labor Candidate Susai Benjamin is standing from Ward 3, Blacktown City Council. He is a well-known community leader, a solicitor and an advocate for the people in the Blacktown area.

Since his arrival in Australia from India in 1987, Susai has been working for the community and planned the establishment of Toongabbie Legal Centre Inc (TLC) in 2007.

He brings nearly 25 years’ experience as a NSW public servant. Over the years, he has served as an Executive Committee member of the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW and as a Board member of Migrant Resource Centres in Blacktown and Parramatta. He also served as the Board member and later the President of Multicultural Arts Alliance of NSW.

Raj Datta is the Labor Party leader from Strathfield. He has been working hard for the last six months walking the Strathfield streets form door to door. Raj is running on the leading ticket of Labor for the Mayoral position.

“I have practically met every resident of Strathfield. The Labor team will work for all. We will not just work for the chosen few but each and every resident in all the nooks, corners and the streets of Strathfield.”

“We want to provide a clean, efficient, effective local government based on common obligations, common purpose, loyalties and common destiny. We aim to deliver a better community space, local services and facilities, transparency, integrity and community empowerment. We will deliver improved focus on public safety and accountability,” says Raj.

The Indian subcontinent community is close to 10 per cent of the total population in Strathfield area. His message to the community is: “Don’t vote for a party which is out to exploit the Indian vote.”

Rajiv Bhandula is standing as a Liberal candidate from Strathfield Local Council.

Says Rajiv, “I could see a significant growth in Strathfield of people of Indian heritage. Consequently it requires an appropriate representation for our community in the council. We have this active action plan ”˜Local for Locals’ ”“ a program under which we encourage street based events so that the new residents can mix with the old residents. Other major issues are the extension of M4, work to eliminate traffic congestion in Strathfield and also stopping the current ACU approved plan.”

Neria Nidea-Soliman, is of Philipino origin and has similar visions of a multicultural community as her Indian counterparts. She is running from Ward 5 Blacktown Council. Her slogan is to listen to the concerns of the people.

Says Neria, “Ward 5 needs change. It is looking for ethnic representation. It is looking for new ideas and committed people who can deliver. My slogan is ”˜Neria Live’ and I am always there to listen and deliver.”

Among other candidates in the Council elections are: Rajiv Dixit from Burwood,  young Aisha Amjad from Pakistan from the Hills Shire (North Ward),  Esha Narayan (The Greens) and Rajesh Kumar (Labor) from Liverpool South, Sajesh Narayan (The Greens) from Liverpool North, Seema Garg (I) from Bankstown North, Varun Nayak (I) from Mount Colah, Satish Kumar (Labor) from Blacktown Ward 3 and the Desi team of John Niven, Sukhwant Singh Sidhu and Vidya Rao from Parramatta Arthur Phillip Ward.

As the Indian subcontinent community is one of the fastest growing migrant communities in Australia, it is a welcome sign that there is awareness now to represent the community needs. And who is better to understand those needs than the one who can speak the same language.

Good luck to all!


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