The unveiling of the memorial for the Australians of Indian Heritage is historic and the first of its kind in Queensland.
The Memorial Unveiling Ceremony was observed on 18th November, 2017 at RSL Sub Branch Sunnybank. The ceremony was attended by Major General Paul McLachlan, AM, CSC the High Commissioner for India, His Excellency, Dr A.M. Gondane, the High Commissioner for Fiji, His Excellency, Mr YogeshPunja, the federal member for Bonner Mr Ross Vasta MP, representing the federal government, members of theState parliament and Brisbane City Councillors among others.
Surendra Prasad OAM, Chairman of Australian Indian Heritage War Memorial Committee said, “ The idea of the memorial started when I read an article in The Courier Mail of 24th March 2015. The article stated that the contribution of Australians of Indian Heritage involved in World Wars went unrecognised.
I started conversations with the leaders of our community about building a memorial for the fallen Australian-Indian soldiers, and the support I received was overwhelming.
The federal member for Moreton, Mr Graham Perrett arranged a meeting with the President of the RSL-Sub Branch, Sunnybank, Mr Hugh Polson, about a space to install the monument.The RSL Sub-branch was happy to provide us with space and Mr Polson President RSL Sub branch and his deputy Harry Claassen has given us significant support to the project.”
A management committee was formed in July 2015 to take up the job of creating the monument. It drew members from different sectors of the Indian community, the RSL sub-branch and politicians from both major parties. The committee was named the Australians of Indian Heritage War Memorial Committee (AIHWMC).
Mr Prasad further added, “At this juncture, I would like to acknowledge a person who has given us great support. He is none other than Mr Lewis Lee OAM, Chairman of the Australians of Chinese Heritage War Memorial Committee (ACHWMC),and who is a good friend of mine. He has given all his support and guidance towards going ahead with this project. Incidentally, the Chinese community built a similar monument a few years ago.”
Apart from the monument, in memory of the fallen Australian-Indian soldiers, the committee has set up an educational bursary for high school students valued upto $1000 a year.
Talking about the design of the monument he said, “We requested Griffith University, Gold Coast, to design the memorial. Dr Ruwan Fernando from the Griffith University School of Architecture was directly involved in the creation of the memorial. He ran a class as a four-week project with the first year students. A group of 90 students participated inthe preliminary design competition. The focus for their mode of design was a model building and three-dimensional design. The students were encouraged to research cultural aspects, including art and customs and incorporate this into their interpretation of a memorial. Eleven were selected as finalists to develop the design further.
A panel of five judges was appointed to evaluate the design entries. At a gala dinner on 12, November,2016, the winning design of Bianca Archer was announced.”
Mr Prasad acknowledged , RSL Sunnybank President,Hugh Polson, Vice President, Harry Gleeson, Capt Chetan Chandegave, Defence adviser to Australia – Indian High Commission for his support. He also thanked the Government for their contribution in terms of funding towards the memorial.
He also highlighted all the hard work of the AIHWM committee.
In conclusion, Mr Prasad reiterated that this monument will be the first step towards creating a shared public memorial.
“This monument will serve as a reminder and tribute to all Australians of Indian Heritage who served in our armed forces. It will be the first in Queensland and should be a place you can be proud to take your visitors and family to show them the contribution and sacrifices made in the wars. You all are part of this memorial and we need your continuing support.
After 100 years,this day will be remembered in Queensland’s history, as the day soldiers of Indian Heritage were finally acknowledged.”