Following its tradition Deepavali Festival of NSW organised the 3rd interfaith conference at the Parliament House of NSW on 12th November 2014, to facilitate promotion of multiculturalism and expunction of racial discrimination.
The Hon Amanda Fazio- Opposition whip, Legislative council and the Hon Michael Daley – Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Roads, sponsored the event. Other parliamentarians present at the event were, The Hon John Robertson- Leader of the opposition, The Hon Paul Lynch – Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Minsiter for Justice, The Hon Guy Zangari – Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Communities and Shadow Minister for sports and recreation.
Highly reputed speakers representing Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Muslim religion and Sikhism spoke from respective points of view how all faiths could promote social integration and multiculturalism in NSW and Australia. Community members representing many different faiths presented cultural performances.
Deepavali Festival Committee, chaired by Raj Datta with the approval of Premier Carr, organised illumination of the exterior of the Parliament House of NSW for the first time in 2003 to celebrate Deepavali for promotion of multiculturalism, social integration and the principles of ‘Unity in diversity’.
This was the first ever-exterior illumination of a Parliament House in the western world to celebrate Deepavali. Based on the success of the event successive governments of NSW adopted this annual event as a model for celebrating other religious /cultural events such as Budh Purnima, Vaisakhi, Eid since, in the Parliament House with other Australian communities.
Deepavali Festival Committee, with the approval of Premier Iemma installed a plaque in the Parliament House of NSW on 29 Aug 2007. The inscription reads: This plaque is erected to commemorate the joint achievements of Australians of Indian Sub-Continental heritage represented by ‘The Deepavali Festival Committee of New South Wales’ and the Government of New South Wales, in promoting community harmony and mutual respect. This was the first ever installation of a plaque in a Parliament House.
Deepavali Festival Committee, with the approval of Premier Keneally instituted the “Premier’s award” for Australians of Indian and Indian Sub-continental heritage in 2010 to acknowledge outstanding achievements of the Australians of Indian sub-continental heritage. Subsequently the Keneally government adopting this Deepavali Festival Committee initiative as a model to institute Premier’s award for many other Australian communities. Another powerful story manifesting transformative Australia promoting multiculturalism, inclusivity and social integration in NSW and Australia. Deepavali Festival Committee looks forward to seeing this powerful tool for promoting social integration being continued.
With all the powerful stories manifesting transformative Australia promoting multiculturalism, inclusivity and social integration in NSW and Australia, by her side the Premier of the premier state of NSW, Premier Keneally in Feb 2011 in a press conference in the Parliament House announced, “NSW has established the world model of multiculturalism and the whole world can learn from it.”
These are indeed some of the best ways to inspire and encourage all Australians regardless of heritage to aspire to become the best they can be. There is no better way to complement building citizenship skills, there is no better way to build an inclusive Australia and achieve the best outcomes for Australia on the world stage.
These are some examples where the successive governments of NSW under Premier Carr, Premier Iemma, Premier Rees and Premier Keneally worked with the Deepavali Festival Committee for promotion of multiculturalism, social integration and social equity.
In an acknowledgement of the success of this celebration at the Parliament House in promoting social integration and multiculturalism in 2011 the Govt of NSW adopted this celebration as a State Celebration.
In his speech Mr. Raj Datta said:
One distinct aspect of Australian multiculturalism is that the freedom to express our cultural identity and heritage has been formalised as a cultural right in addition to civil, political and social rights and this has been balanced by civic responsibilities with affirmation to national unity.
Any right to express our cultural identity has also been accompanied by the responsibility to adhere to the rule of law, the parliamentary democracy and equality.
But it seems some aspects of ‘multiculturalism’ are not well understood:
Recent proposal for changing Racial discrimination Act , clause 18 C, proves that Australians cannot take their hard earned rights for granted.
It only proves that -as Australians we must remain vigilant as if we don’t , our rights can be taken away in a matter of minutes.
These prove that Multiculturalism is not a static state of affairs.
It is a living thing that needs constant nurturing.The Hon John Robertson, leader of the opposition said: Indian culture is one of the oldest cultures and the contribution of this culture has been enriching Australia very significantly. Australian Indians are the ideal citizens.
The Hon Michael Daley Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Roads praised the efforts of the Australians of the Indian sub-continental heritage and the Deepavali Festival Committee for promoting the cause of multiculturalism and unity in diversity. He said he was very happy to be the sponsor of the event and continue to be so in the future.
The Hon Amanda Fazio- Opposition whip, Legislative council, reflecting on her long association with the event organised at the Parliament House of NSW and the Deepavali Festival Committee said she was privileged to attend so many Indian community events at various places including the temples and she greatly enjoyed not just the cuisine but the cultural performances. She requested the community to invite her to events in the future years as enjoys the culture.
The Hon Guy Zangari, Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Communities and Shadow Minister for sports and recreation in his speech said he highly appreciates that Deepavali Festival Committee has been effectively promoting the cause of social integration and multiculturalism in NSW for so many years. It is an honor to be part of this celebration.
The Hon Paul Lynch – Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Minister for Justice also attended the event.