By Neha Kolape
In December 2015, Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott announced an Indian Cultural Precinct would be developed at Little India in Foster St, Dandenong, with another precinct or community center to be built in Wyndham. The State Government will commit $500,000 from its cultural precincts fund towards each development. This became a memorable Christmas & New Year gift for Indian/south Asian community living all around Victoria. Finally, on 1st December, 2015, Daniel Andrews fulfilled his commitments of one Indian precinct by announcing two precincts for the Indian community.
Neha Kolape from Indus Age interviewed Manoj Kumar. Manoj is the man behind the push for an Indian precinct and this interview attempts to detail the hard work and key events which successfully led to the Indian precinct being built. Manoj Kumar along with Neeraj Nanda & others have been involved behind this campaign since early 2011.
Indus Age: How do you feel after the government announcement to build an Indian cultural precinct in Dandenong and Wyndham?
Manoj Kumar: Everyone in the Indian community is very happy with this announcement. This announcement celebrates the great diversity we have in this multicultural state. My congratulation to Little India traders and volunteers (Neeraj Nanda, Aloke Kumar, Aakash Kumar, Kaushaliya Vaghela, Dinesh Kumar and many more) who have been behind this campaign since 2011. It’s a win for the community.
Indus Age: Do you think that such an announcement will allow for more business opportunity at Little India?
Manoj Kumar: Yes, it will increase traffic through the area which in turn will translate into increased business for all the shops in the area. I would like to thank Daniel Andrews, as we only asked for one precinct and the Govt. announced plans to build two. It’s a proud moment for our multiculturalism, and it allows the people of our community to experience the diverse Indian culture.
Indus Age: After the announcement to build the Indian precincts, many people jumped into to claim credit for the campaign even though they were invisible throughout the campaign and had very little contribution towards it.
Manoj Kumar: I think it’s a win for all and credit goes out to the whole community, irrespective of they were part of the campaign or not. The real credit goes to Victorian Premier Hon. Daniel Andrews with his team including Robin Scott, Jude Perera, Gabrielle Williams, Jill Hennessey, ex-MP Brian Tee and others.
Actually, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, has been listening to Little India traders since his visit to Little India as the Leader of Opposition in August 2011. During his visit Daniel met & discussed issues facing the traders due to the revitalization of Dandenong and highlighted the need for an Indian precinct in Victoria like Lygon Street, China Town. Shortly after his visit, Daniel Andrews deputed his then Senior Ministerial member Hon. Brian Tee (Then Shadow planning Minister) and assigned him to the project of Little India. On 1st December, 2015, Daniel Andrews fulfilled his commitments of building an Indian precinct by announcing the plan to build an Indian precinct in Dandenong and Wyndham.
Indus Age: What was the most difficult time you faced during this issue?
Manoj Kumar– There were a few challenging times during this campaign, but I feel the hard work of the people involved and the support of the community allowed us to easily fix any issues and help us achieve this wonderful landmark to celebrate the diversity we have in our great multicultural state.