Parliament House Diwali

3rd December 2018 in Federal Parliament house, Canberra.

Memorial dedicated to Indian Anzacs to be unveiled in Sydney

Twelve Indian-origin soldiers volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force during WWI, according to the records in the National Archives of Australia

ANZAC JAWAN Cenotaph Memorial dedicated to Indian Soldiers


By : Julian Leeser, Federal MP For Berowra.

Saturday 10th November 2018, Greenway Park, Cherrybrook, NSW, Australia.

As the Federal Member for Berowra, and as the Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of India it is an honour and a privilege to unveil the ANZAC Jawan Memorial on the eve of the centenary of Armistice. We dedicate today, a memorial to the Indian soldiers who fought for Australia in the First AIF in World War One.

Cadets showing their respect to fallen soldiers

Some years ago I heard the story of the Indians who fought in the AIF in World War One.  

Source : SBS –

In the lead up to the Centenary of Armistice I encouraged leaders of the Indian community, resident in the Berowra electorate, in particular Parveen Gupta and Ashwani Jain to make an application for a grant  for a the establishment of a memorial to the Indians who fought with the AIF .  They approached the local RSL President Terry James who was an enthusiastic supporter as was Hornsby Council and its Mayor Philip Ruddock.

Julian Leeser MP, Terry James AICM JP, Jay Raman OAM

The idea for this memorial was considered by the local federal armistice grants committee chaired by the historian and former MP AndrewTink AM. Serving onthat committee were Brigadier Charles New OAM, Mr Jim Mein AM, Mrs Jilly Warren and Mrs Jenni Bohman. 

The federal grant and funds raised by the Hindu Council allowed for the construction of this monument which we will unveil today.

I particularly want to acknowledge Parveen Gupta, the Hindu Council under Prakash Mehta and the RSL’s Terry James who have been the driving forces behind the monument and the ceremony today.

Memorial a first

This memorial is the first of its kind in NSW.

Australian Cadets guarding the memorial

It will help do three things.

First, it will remind Australians that the Indian community is not a new community but one that has been in Australia for a long time and always makes a contribution to our country in times of war and times of peace.

Second, it will be a permanent reminder of the way in which the Indian community has embraced the ANZAC Spirit – that that spirit lives on even for those who have no direct family connection to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

And third it will be a reminder that Australia and India have marched together in the past to defend freedoms in time of war and we will always march together in the future to defend our freedoms.

Indians in Australia

The first Indians came to Australia as convicts in 1800 and the first free Indians came in 1816 as labourers.  By federation there were roughly 3000 Indians in Australia and nearly 4000 by the time of the outbreak of World War One . Larger numbers of Indians came to Australia after World War Two.

Julian Leeser unveiling speech

In the 20 years from the 1960s to the 1980s the Indian population grew by 22,000due to migration. Inthenext 20 years it grew by 54,000 due to migration but from the year 2000 an additional 400,000 Indians have migrated to Australia.

Today there are 700,000 Indian Australians working in every field of endeavour helpingtobuild a prosperous Australia..

The Indians who fought with the AIF

But today we are here to honour a special group of Indians

The Indian Soldiers whowe honour today who fought in the First AIF.

They were like so many other Australians who fought in the First AIF.

Out of a population of fewer than 5 million people 410,000 Australians enlisted in the First AIF. 60,000 made the supreme sacrifice while 156,000 were wounded, gassed or taken prisoner.

Just like the other soldiers fighting in the AIF the Indian soldiers were a diverse lot.

They lived almost every state in Australia. They lived in cities and towns.

They were farmers, labourers, shopkeepers merchants, travellers, contractors and hawkers.

Some enlisted early at the beginning of 1915 while other enlisted in the final months of 1917.

They ranged in age from 28- 49.  We often hear stories of younger soldiers lying about their age to enlist. What is remarkable is the higher proportion of Indian soldiers who were volunteering to fight after the age of 40 which was often considered too old to serve.

They fought in the 3rd Light Horse, and the 10th, 13th, 33rd, 44th and 50thBattalionsseeing action in the Sinai Palestine campaign and on the Western Front.

ANZAC Jawan Cenotaph team – Rajeev Maini (Architect), Ashwani Sharma, Bhagwat Chauhan, Ashwani Jain, Sanjeev Bhakri, Parveen Gupta and Engineer Bhadhwar (not in picture)

The soldiers also had to overcome prejudice. The Defence Act 1909 barred soldiers “who are not substantially of European origin or descent” from enlisting. The fact that these men chose to serve regardless of this barrier shows how keen they were to fight for Australia

Of the soldiers honoured today two of them Nain Singh Sailani and Saran Singh made the Supreme sacrifice.

Indians and Australians fighting along-side eachother

Beyond the dozen soldiers we honour today we also remember that the Indian Army fought along side the ANZACs in World War One and World War Two.

In the First World War the Indian Army deployed 1.5 Million troops. 50,000 of whom made the supreme sacrifice, 65,000 were wounded and 10,000 were assumed missing

In the First World War India and Australia were there together at the cliffs of Gallipoli(where the Indian contingent was 15,000 strong), in the desert of the Sinai Palestine campaign and the mud of the Western Front. The Indian army fought the same campaigns as my great grandfather a replica of whose medals I wear today.

In the Second World War Indians and Australians against fought successfully against the Germans in Tobruk and El AlaemainFrance, Greece and Italy and unsuccessfully against the Japanese in Singapore like my grandfather whose medals I also wear.They also fought against the Japanese successfully in Malaya, Boreneo and Burma.

That defence cooperation continues today. 

India is a vital security partner for Australia both in the Indian Ocean and the broader Indo-Pacific region. Both Australia’s Foreign Policy White Paper and the 2016 Defence White Paper, emphasised the importance of deepening Australia’s engagement with India on our shared interests in maritime security, regional stability, and countering violent extremism.

Our defence relationship has significantly expanded in recent years through the Annual 2+2 Foreign and Defence Secretaries’ Dialogue, which was last held on the 10 October. The success of this dialogue symbolises the progress which the relationship has made in recent years, and presents important opportunities for further development.

For the first time, in 2018 Australia also welcomed India’s participation in RAAF and RAN biennial multilateral engagement exercises. Another bilateral maritime exercise has already been scheduled for 2019, demonstrating that our relationship is already stretching into the future.

Julian Leeser after unveiling the names of 12 ANZAC Jawans


I hope that this monument is a source of pride to the Indian community of Australia. The history of World War One is so fundamental to the Australian national character and story. This monument signifies that Indian Australians share that character and are part of that story.  It is due recognition of the contribution of Indians to the defence of Australia and its values.

I hope this monument is also a source of pride to all other Australians that a community whose numbers have grown recently have been so willing to embrace Australia and its traditions

Finally I hope that this reminds all who take time to look at the monument and reflect on it that Australia and India have a shared military past but more importantly we have a shared future in time of war and in time of peace.

It is now my pleasure and privilege to unveil the Anzac Jawan Cenotaph memorial.

@julianleeser #julianleeser


Diwali ArtSpace exhibition opened by Mayor of Strathfield

A Diwali themed Arts Exhibition with paintings, sculptures and other Art works was declared “open” by the Mayor of @StrathfieldCouncil and Dr Bala Subramaniam AOM on 9th November 2018. The Mayor congratulated Hindu Council for organizing such a wonderful art exhibition.

Lord Mayor of Strathfield

The event was also attended by Jodi McKay, MP and by Councillor Karen Pensabene.

Jodi McKay MP

Strathfield Council in recognition of its multicultural community is doing a series of exhibitions of its diverse cultures. Hindu or Diwali ArtSpace exhibition is the sixth and last in the series and was done jointly by the Strathfield Council and Hindu Council of Australia.

Some of the artists in first row with Sonali and Karren

The exhibition consists of works of 14 Artists and 9 budding Artists with some only as old as 12 years. They have produced Paintings, Jewelery, Ceramics and Glass art works.

The paintings are at display in High Street Strathfield South library. Over 100 people attended the opening ceremony and spent their time going through the paintings. All paintings are available for sale with entire proceeds going to the Artists.

Ashwani Jain, Kati and Sonali with some of the paintings

Six paintings were sold during the opening ceremony itself, which according to Library Art curator Kati is a very good response. The exhibition is open till 20th November 2018.


Strathfield Diwali 18th Nov

Strathfield Diwali Festival 18th November 11am to 4pm.

Gargi Women Awards 2019

This award is given to Australian Women who have made a significant contribution to Australia.  This year, eight  awards are being offered, one in each of the following categories :

  1. Sports
  2. Defense, Police, Fire, emergency services
  3. Performing and Arts
  4. Community services
  5. Education
  6. Science and Research
  7. Language and Culture
  8. Journalism

Nominations are accepted online at

Closing date for nominations is 31st December 2018. If you are an Australian woman or know of an Australian woman,  who deserves the award, please nominate her.  Self nominations are also welcome and encouraged. The candidate should be :

  • A resident of Australia
  • Not an elected representative or an office bearer of a political party
  • Has not received any major award for this work yet
  • Believes in gender balance and democracy
  • Does not believe in Violence and does not believe in Religious Conversion

Selection will be made by a jury and awards will be announced and presented on International Women’s Day in March, 2019.

The purpose of these awards is to foster Integration between different communities in Australia and to recognize women who have remained unrecognized for their work and contribution.


Hindu Council connects with UWS students for Diwali

Hindu Council of Australia has made contact with University of Western Sydney (UWS) students and had a low key Diwali sweets distribution with them on 8th November 2018. UWS is one of the premier Universities of Sydney and has over 6,000 Indian students many of them from India, studying in it.


The University holds a light soup and bread session for its Parramatta campus students every Thursday evening at 6pm which provides free food and a place to mingle for all its students. The food distribution is managed by Parramatta Mission and is attended by about 30-40 students every week.

Hindu Council put up some posters about Diwali and supplied Kheer and Diwali sweets. The Mission agreed to our request to have vegetarian only soup and bread for the day. About 50 Australian, Asian and Indian students visited the soup kitchen. There was a visible smile on the faces of Indian students familiar with Diwali and their happiness could be seen beaming from their faces.

Kheer for Students on Diwali Soup Day

One of the students from Gujarat who has been in UWS for two years came up to me and asked if she can touch my feet as she needs blessings of an elder on this new year day. She touched my feet and her act touched my heart.

Students project of Hindu Council aims at connecting University going students with the existing Hindu Community here and to provide emotional support to overseas and away from home students. Bhupinder Chabra and Reshma Krishnappa are helping with this initiative.

Hindu Council Volunteers at UWS kitchen for Diwali

Religious Community Forum condemns attacks

By : Surinder Jain.

Religious community from Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christainity and Zorashtrian religions met with representatives from Department of Multicultural NSW on 8th November 2018 to discuss issues affecting their religious communities in Australia. The forum condemned recent attacks (1) Desecration of Bharathiye Mandir Hindu temple (2) Pittsburgh (Jewish) Synagogue massacre in America and (3) St Samuel (Coptic) Monastry in Egypt. A one minute silence was observed to pay respect to those who died in the attacks.

The forum felt that instead of reacting to such incidents, we should take pro-active steps to avoid such incidents in future and discussed following recommendations :

  1. Children should be taught value of respecting sacred places and religious leaders.
  2. Religious schools teaching a particular religion should also teach respect for all other religions.
  3. School curriculum teaches students their rights but should also include lessons on students duties.
  4. Australia already has diversity, emphasis should now be on inclusion.
  5. Australia has a good model of a chesive multicultural society and it should be a model for other countries.

It was also agreed that there should be an emphasis of imparting religious sermons in English language but religious rituals should continue in their traditional languages.

Hindu Council Donates to Farmers Relief Fund

Hindu Council gave a cheque for $11,000 to the Premier’s Farmers Relief Fund. 

Diwali becomes an important festival of Australia

By : Surinder Jain.

After Australia abolished it’s whites only immigration policy in the 60s, Indians started migrating to Australia for education and work. Today there are over 450,000 Hindus in Australia who call Australia home.

Marriage Procession through the streets of Parramatta

For many decades Diwali celebrations were a private affair among family or temples. All that changed in 1998 when Hindu Council of Australia started celebrating Diwali at a grand scale in Paramatta Park in western Sydney. Twenty years later, the twentieth year of Diwali in Australia has been a turning point in the history of Indians in Australia. 

Multicultural Australia has accepted Hindus and Indians and have accepted Diwali as a significant Australian celebration, significant enough for the Prime Minister and the Premier to visit and celebrate Diwali festivities. Members of Parliament from all shades of politics joined them. Most MPs were dressed in either Sarees, Salwar Kameez or Indian Kurta.


Diwali 2018 Parramatta

Their presence at the festival adorning Indian clothes is a manifestation of Australians having accepted Indians and Hindus as their own.

This Diwali also marks another significant change in Australia. Main stream and very popular radio show hosts like ABC Sydney Radio Breakfast show hosted by Robbie and Wendy and listened to by thousands driving to their work in the morning, welcomed Diwali in their program. 

Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer.
Credit: ABC Radio Sydney Breakfast

Such inclusion of Diwali in opinion setting Radio shows and presence of political powerful in festivities is something we Hindus feel proud of. We benefit from the success of and feel proud to have called Australia home. Let’s return the favour and make Australia proud of us.