It’s only a matter of time before Indians have a larger say in public life, says community leader and Labor politician.
Councillor Raj Datta of Strathfield thinks it’s time Indians in Australia participate in the political process the way migrants from other backgrounds such as Italy, Greece, or the UK have in the past. Cr Datta is one of the first first-generation Indian migrants“from a major party”, Labor, to be elected Councillor. Raj Datta has been living in Strathfield with his family for over 25 years. Community work/Service, both within the Indian community in Australia, as well the wider Australian community, has been his passion ever since he came to Australia.
Cr Datta says that the recent growth of the Indian sub-continental community and its contributions to Australian society in all walks of life, for several decades, makes it important for Indians settled in Australia to have greater involvement with the political parties. “Being private citizens and a model minority are commendable,” says Cr Datta, “but it’s time to step up the community’s profile on the national stage. We have a public duty to enrich Australia with the dedication, values and principles we inherit through our culture.” However, according to Cr Datta, public life inevitably involves significant sacrifice, and this is something all need to take into account. “Success in this field is not a result of a sprint but the result of a very long marathon,” he says.
Speaking to the Indian Sun on the reasons why Indians are not conspicuous in politics, Cr Datta said that “it is only a matter of time before Indians gain prominence in public life”.
Datta has an impressive record of community activity within the Indian communities. As chairperson of the Deepavali Festival Committee of NSW, Datta was the driver behind a campaign that resulted in the first ever illumination of a parliament house for celebrating Deepavali, at the Parliament House of NSW in 2003.
This has now been transformed into a State celebration. He was the key person behind the installation of the first ever plaque in a Parliament House in acknowledgement of the contributions of the people of the Indian and Indian Sub-continental heritage. Datta has also been an organiser of inter-faith conferences at the Parliament House of NSW, an annual event. Apart from his passion for promoting Indian culture and values in Australia and “promoting multiculturalism”, Datta has been active helping the “needy and voiceless” in the area of Strathfield and greater Sydney/NSW. It is grassroots work of this nature that paves the way to an election ticket, says Datta. So Datta’s message to Indian Australians who are interested in politics is to “get involved in their local communities and find the commonalities between the needs of the community and the values and principles of the political party, and promote the interests of the community based on the synergy.” He believes that any infighting in the Australian Indian community or any other community for petty personal gains serves no purpose, and Datta says “Indians should focus their energies on presenting a united front in public.
Each and every Indian Australian should help each other, promote each other as much as possible and never succumb to a tall poppy syndrome. They should be supportive of each other in every walk of life, regardless of any other difference.”
Being election time, however, Datta wanted to remind the Australian Indian community of Australia’s recent history and the “progressive legislation” of the Labor governments that have helped the Indian community “prosper in Australia”. Datta says that Medicare and free higher education introduced and maintained by the Australian Labor prime ministers have helped all Indian Australian families as well as all other migrants with their basic needs. “The Indian voter would do well to remember the legacy of Labor’s progressive legislations, based on the Labor values of equality, social equity and non-discrimination among many other values,” Datta adds.
According to Datta: “It is the results of these progressive policies that Australia has not become a collection of ghettos but transformed itself into one of the best multicultural and socially mobile and integrated communities.”