‘Proud to have Melbourne as the capital of the Indian diaspora’

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Premier Daniel Andrews opens up to The Indian Sun on his promises for the Indian community as well as his blueprint for safeguarding the people of Victoria.

At a festive event earlier you had promised to bring to life a cultural precinct for Indians in Victoria. What is the timeline on that project and what happens to the existing Little India precinct in Dandenong?
Holi
The first thing to say is that we are so proud to have Melbourne and Victoria as the capital of the Indian diaspora. There are more members of the Indian Australian community in Melbourne and Victoria than any other part of the Australian nation. So in a sense it is long overdue for us to have an Indian cultural precinct to host events, to tell the story of the Indian migration to our city and to our state, and reflect upon the great contribution that the Indian community makes in politics, research, medicine, academia, business, trade, and in our multiculturalism, sharing Indian culture and heritage, celebrating Indian culture and heritage. A space that belongs uniquely to the Indian community is very important. Now a lot of work will have to go into that. It won’t necessarily happen in weeks and months, it will take some time. We have to get this right. We already have a Little India precinct at Dandenong and there have been some significant challenges in terms of some of the changes to the environment. Labour has worked closely with the traders there and we want to continue to do that. We also want to make sure we get the best possible space where the largest number of Melburnians and Victorians, can come and share in the celebration of Indian culture. The key point here is to actually listen, not to tell the Indian community what they want but to listen to what the Indian community needs.

And would that include community consultations?
Absolutely. It’s going to be a significant committee. I am sure that multicultural affairs minister Robin Scott won’t allow it to be a 50 or 100 member committee but there will need to be significant and meaningful community consultation where the Labor government actually listens to the Indian community. I am not interested in telling Indian Australians what they want, but listening to what they need.

You had said that you would like to bring about an Indian film festival Melbourne free of controversy. How were you planning on achieving that?
It may be more easily said than done. I think what’s important—and I’ve heard this message very clearly from many different leaders in the Indian community—is that there are many people in the Indian community who don’t feel they have a say, a voice, in this important film festival. It’s a big cultural event, it’s a big economic event, it’s something we want to see done well. Now I don’t want to be drawn into the internal politics of these things but what I would say is that surely we have to strive for a better outcome. We don’t want people feeling they have been excluded, or that they haven’t been listened to. We want people to have confidence in the process, and to be part of an event that is really special. I am confident that the organisers of the event will hear that message and will better engage the broader range of stakeholders and of the Indian community.

On the backdrop of the Sydney siege, how do you plan on safeguarding the people of Victoria?
These were terrible acts by one person. This was not about the clothes that you wear, where you pray or how you pray. It’s not about faith. It’s a betrayal of faith. There is no religious observance. There is no truth in acting the way this person did. It is the exact opposite of that.
I have been deeply saddened by the events in Sydney, but I have been proud to stand up and make the point that this is not the Victorian way, this is not the Australian way. There are some in our community, who for their own reasons, seem to conclude that the acts of one person, who is no servant of Islam, is no servant of faith, are a commentary on everyone, of the Islamic faith. That is wrong and it puts at risk the harmony and respect that we have built here in Victoria and that we are famous for, and that we should always richly cherish.
I am concerned that there are many—particularly women—from the Muslim faith, who feel less secure than they did some time ago, and we have to do more. I know the Victoria police are very concerned about this issue, and they have been working with the Islamic Council of Victoria and with other groups to try and reassure members of the Victorian and Melbourne Islamic groups that they will be protected and that they can feel safe.
The ‘I’ll Ride with you’ hashtag is a beautiful way the public is coming forward in support of the people who could or could not be facing prejudice as a repercussion of what happened. Moving forward, Mr Ted Baillieu has been very vocal and passionate about his campaign against dowry. What is your take on the issue?

I want everyone to be treated equally. I want to see women in our community respected, I want to see every Victorian respected, based on their potential, their abilities, based on an equality of opportunity, that’s my vision for our state. I don’t think Ted and I have a difference in our view, on the need to treat people equally, and fairly. On the issue of dowry though, these arrangements are almost always made overseas. I suppose I need to listen to the community a bit more on this, I need to understand, … If you go back to Baillieu and the campaign he ran around this issue, a few years ago now, it is probably one of the many issues on which I need to hear and listen, from the community about their concerns. The safety and protection of women is a very significant issue, which we are going to take very clear action on.

Speaking of acts of violence, touching on another very tragic and recent event, a young couple perished in a case of murder-suicide recently in Deer Park, when a reporter from The Indian Sun contacted the police they were not very forthcoming with any basic information especially about that child. Many people from the community want to reach out and help that toddler or the family of the deceased in some form. We feel that the ethnic media is kept in the dark on crucial matters.
Sometimes with these cases, as investigations unfold, they can be a good deal more complex than they might seem, and police have got a very difficult job to do with providing information providing reassurance, fulfilling that part of their role but also be careful not to compromise any investigation. It’s a difficult balancing act and I think most Victorians know that and they can understand that. If there is an issue with Victoria police and other emergency service and their engagement with the multicultural media I would be more than happy raise it, making sure the community is well informed not just in criminal issues but also issues of public safety issues. We need to make sure the message gets out there. And the multicultural media is a very important part of that.
Holi
Watch the full interview exclusively on www.youtube.com/user/theindiansuntv

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