New MLA creates history for Indian community

daniel mookhay s


Daniel Mookhay with wife Tamsin and mum Neelam Mookhay (in yellow shalwar kameez) and friends and supporters after his inaugural speech at Upper House  NSW Parliament

By Vijay Badhwar

Daniel Mookhay has never been feted by the multitude of Indian organisations in Sydney, never been among the long list of self-proclaimed VIPs at functions, never has accompanied the politicians on stage. Even though he has been a top line union leader all through, it is indeed surprising how he has managed to stay under the radar. That, too, with family credentials like that of his father Ramesh Mookhey who had the initiative to start the first Indian newsletter in the eighties.

The first the community hears about Daniel Mookhay is when there is a Labor nomination for the NSW Parliament Upper House. That’s a much sought after position, not for mere mortals!

Daniel Mookhay was sworn in the NSW Parliament as an MP on May,12, first time in Australian history, on Bhagavad Gita. Having lost his father when he was five-year-old, he acknowledged the many sacrifices his family had made during the period.

In his inaugural speech the next day at the Upper House in NSW Parliament Mr Mookhay reiterated the oath he had taken in presence of the Governor to serve the community with integrity, wisdom, and sometimes courage to make a difference in people’s lives in a real and meaningful way. “I know the honour and the privilege of sitting in this, Australia’s oldest Legislative Chamber. I am humbled by being joined to the democratic tradition it embodies,” he said.

“The earliest connection my family has to Australia dates to the life of my maternal grandfather. He was a lifelong solider. His first war was the Second World War. He served as an infantry officer, a member of Montgomery’s army,” Mr Mookhey said.

When all of his grandfather’s company was killed by a German tank assault, he was forced to wander the desert alone. He experienced incredible heat and thirst, and he saw visions of a monkey””a monkey shaped like Lord Hanuman, the Monkey God from Hindu lore. So for the rest of his life he would start each day by reciting the 40 verses of the Hanuman Chalisa. “Yesterday, to honour of my grandfather’s memory, I took my pledge of loyalty holding a copy of the Chalisa and the Bhagavad Gita in my hand. It was the least I could do,” he said.

What Daniel admired about his grandfather’s generation was the restraint shown after the win that it was rather an opportunity for a more equal reconstruction. “The result was one of the fairest societies the world has ever known. For the returning subcontinental soldiers, the need was for a different creed, a creed that could retrieve the subcontinent from the clutches of colonialism, a creed that could sustain nations where neither the caste of your birth, the colour of your skin, the gods you worshipped or the person you loved mattered. The only thing that mattered was your character,” he said.

As a Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) representative, he said, he had learnt a lot from the leaders ”“ the art of patience, fierceness and above all humility. Daniel Mookhey took the opportunity to thank many of his colleagues and friends in the union movement many of whom were present at the ceremony.

He thanked his close family of friends –  the Mehtas, Shankars, Guptas and Kapoors, Ajay, Monica, Uncle, Aunty””and the Sharmas, the Cornishes and the Lloyds, Kieran and Aneyrin. “You have provided to me what no-one else can: the solace of family,” he said.

“My mother came to this country to be with her husband. She had three children and I am the youngest. Too quickly, she found herself alone. My late father, may God bless his memory, left us too soon. Mum raised us, educated us and scolded us, but she always loved us, all three of us. She is now our paragon and I hope I can do her proud,” Daniel said, also thanking lovingly his brother Tarun and his wife Sandeep and his elder sister Sheena who was presently in London and his wife Tamsin.

Daniel Mookhay concluded, “It is now my responsibility to avail myself of the privilege afforded me by membership of this Chamber. I will use its power to ensure that more of our citizens have good jobs which have rights attached and which pay well. I will work to ensure that more of our citizens have profitable businesses that support their families, that we all have clean water and clean power and that we are all a little more free. I am honoured to have that chance and I am eager to get started.”

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