Hindu Council of Australia (Victoria) organised multi-faith event

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Melbourne 28th March. 

Hindu Council of Australia (Victoria) organised a multi-faith event on the occasion of Hindu New Year which commenced on 28th March 2017. This event was held on 2 Apr 2017 at the Brighton Town Hall.

The theme of the event was based on the New Year and representatives from different faiths were invited to speak about the concept and significance of the New Year they follow in their faith. It was an interesting forum where a lot of commonalities were found in this concept amongst all the faiths.


The keynote Hindu speaker was Dr Jayant Bapat, OAM, who is one of the oldest Hindu migrants in the recent times in Australia. Jayant Bapat comes from Maharashtra State in India and migrated to Australia in 1965. He holds doctorates in Organic Chemistry and in Social Anthropology. Dr Bapat retired as a Senior Lecturer in Organic Chemistry at Monash University, Melbourne, in 1998.

Since then, he has been an ‘Adjunct Research Fellow’ at the Monash Asia Institute, Monash University to this date. His current research interests are Indology, Hinduism, Goddess cults, Jainism and sociology of religion. He has published research papers on temple priests, the fisher community of Mumbai and goddess cults and has contributed to Encyclopaedias of Anthropology, Sociology and Culture. He is the Co-Editor of The Iconic Female: Goddesses of India, Nepal and Tibet (Monash University Press, 2008 ) He is the Co-Author of The Indian Diaspora: 150 Years of Hindus and Sikhs in Australia (D.K. Printworld 2015).


After the keynote speech from Dr Bapat, various other faith representatives enlightened the audience with their views on the New Year.

After Dr Bapat , the next person to speak was Dr Helen Light. Dr Helen Light AM was inaugural Director of the Jewish Museum of Australia having worked there from 1983 – 2010. She now works as a consultant in museums, exhibitions and with collections, specifically with multicultural heritage and interfaith issues. Helen was President of Museums Australia (Victoria), an Executive Member of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV); and on the Boards of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association, the Faith Communities Council of Victoria and on the Advisory Boards for the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash University. She is currently a Board Member of the Ethnic Community Council of Victoria and is on the Advisory Board for the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Art Gallery. She is an honorary associate of Museum Victoria. She is currently president of the Jewish Christian Museum Association.

The Jewish talk was then followed by Susanne Haake, a representative of the Bahaii faith. Susanne was born in a Bahaii family and she is a Director of Academic Development at St Leonard’s College in Brighton.

The next one to speak was the Sikh faith and was represented by Mr Jasbir Singh Suropada from the Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria. Jasbir is also a member of the Spiritual Health Victoria (SHV), Faith Communities Council of Victoria (FCCV), Multi-faith Advisory Group Victorian Multicultural Commission (MAG), Casey, Cardinia and Dandenong Interfaith Network. He has participated in several interfaith forums sharing about the Sikh faith. He is also the Director of the Sikh Australian Support for Family Violence Inc. (SASFV) He works as a Senior Practitioner at Anglicare, Parentzone running group parenting programs.

The Sikh faith was followed by the Buddhist faith and the speaker was Peggy Page. Peggy is a retiree after having spent time working in the IT industry, Age care and Counselling and Psychotherapy she is a volunteer for the Buddhist Council of Victoria for 10 years having had roles of Special Religious Instructions convenor, President, secretary and is now the Interfaith convenor. Beside the BCV she is also volunteer for the Melbourne Thai Buddhist Temple.

After the Buddhist faith there were 3 Christian leaders to speak on behalf of their faith.

The first one was Rev Sharon Hollis. Rev Sharon Hollis was installed as the Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania in June 2016.  Sharon was ordained in 1994 and has served in congregational ministry in suburban Melbourne and as an adult educator developing and leading continuing education programs for ministers. Prior to ordination Sharon worked in public housing.

Sharon is a member of the Victorian Council of Churches Executive and a Fellow of Queen’s College, University of Melbourne

After Rev Sharon Hollis there was a brief talk by Bishop Paul Barker. Bishop Paul Barker is an Assistant Bishop for the south and eastern suburbs (Jumbunna Episcopate) of the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne. Formerly he was the Senior Minister at Doncaster. For seven years he was based in Malaysia, teaching in Bible colleges through Asia and training preachers. He has been Adjunct Professor at South Asian Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India, and was a faculty member at Malaysian Theological Seminary. His PhD was on the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy.

The faith talks were concluded by Rev Ian Smith of the Victorian Council of Churches. Ian has been in pastoral ministry with Churches of Christ for over 30 years. All of their ministries have been in the Northern and Western suburbs of Melbourne and Ian has thirty years of experience in cross-cultural dialogue and Inter-Faith collaboration. Since 1991 Ian has been a delegate for Churches of Christ to the Victorian Council of Churches. Holding a number of positions; Commission member, Commission chair, a member of the Executive, Vice President and served a term as President.

Many of the Buddhist and Sikh faith presentations showed a huge amount of similarity with the Hindu New Year and so did from the Jewish faith.

The event was very well anchored by Mr Jitarth Bharadwaj from SBS Melbourne.

Mr Chidambaram Srinivasan, Chairman of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, presented a summary of the event concluding the presentation of various speakers. The event was followed by vegetarian snacks kindly sponsored by ISKCON Melbourne.




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