Indian Australians make a great contribution to civic life
She’s got big ambitions for Victoria’s new Indian Cultural Precinct, Wyndham. A transformation is on the cards, from forgotten suburbs west of Melbourne, to a hotspot for local tourists. The drawcard? Wyndham’s melting pot of cultures, food, vibrant festivals and events.
The Indian Sun spoke to Wyndham’s new CEO Kelly Grigsby to get the lowdown on her vision for change, and Council’s new drive to engage with the local Indian community.
What does Wyndham’s growing Indian community bring to the area and what’s you’re vision for it as CEO? [Answered edited for clarity]
Wyndham’s Indian community is long established, well respected, and continues to grow. A substantial amount of Indians who arrive in Australia are highly skilled and make up an important part of the skills sector in Wyndham. Indian Australians with entrepreneurial skills also make a valuable contribution to the local economy by establishing new and innovative businesses that employ Wyndham residents, and leverage new and emerging markets.
Indian Australians make a great contribution to civic life. For example, organising sports clubs, participating in tree planting, creating social connections with their neighbours, participating in community meetings, and acting on social issues such as family violence and poverty.
In Wyndham, Indian Australians have also been showcasing elements of their culture through celebrations, such as Diwali and Eid. This is something I’d like to see grow, and become more multicultural as people from new backgrounds and existing communities learn more about Indian culture. Multiculturalism is a true strength for Wyndham that must be fostered.
Council talks about encouraging community participation in planning – how do you plan to engage local Indian Australians?
Councillors and I share a firm commitment to meaningful engagement with our community in planning and decision-making, including the Indian community.
In recognition of the Indian community being one of our fastest growing communities, we held a dinner with leaders of the local Indian community this year. Through the lively conversations held at that dinner we learned a lot about ways of engaging with the Indian community. We also established new relationships with spiritual, cultural, social, sporting, business and media organisations.
Since then, we’ve been engaging with the Indian community by: attending Holi Fest, engaging with Indian media outlets, supporting emerging community leaders through our Building Blocks program, and inviting participation in the Community Rates Panels, District Advisory Committees and other formal feedback mechanisms. We have seen great participation by Indian community members in these opportunities.
How do you plan to tackle racism and foster cohesion in Wyndham?
The feedback gathered when we spoke to 2,040 local people this year to help prepare our Community Plan, is that the cohesion between ethnic groups in Wyndham is strong. I would like to make sure we maintain this.
Cultural and multicultural events which happen in Wyndham, such as Multicultural Fiesta, Diwali, Eid, Holi, Christmas Carols and so on are a great opportunity for people to mix with each other, be exposed to each other’s cultures, and build understanding, which can break down the barriers which can lead to racism.
I’m proud Wyndham is a signatory to the national Racism It Stops With Me campaign. And we take an active stand against racism when we see it, as well as training Council staff how to prevent and respond to racism. I’m a great believer in the power of storytelling, which is why we are inviting people to share their story about how they came to be in Wyndham through our website – we’ll use people’s stories to build understanding and help us all to see what we have in common.
We are also aware the state government is taking a renewed focus on social cohesion through the establishment of a new unit in the Department of Premier and Cabinet. And I’m keen to ensure we work together with the state government to take a local focus here in Wyndham.
What are the key things you aim to achieve as CEO?
My focus as CEO of Wyndham is to work in partnership with Councillors to ensure Wyndham is a place that inspires confidence, is community-focused, innovative and responsive to the diverse needs of communities. I have been described as a “new generation CEO” with a strategic approach, focus on innovation, and ability to translate strategies into visible on-the-ground results.
I’d like to see growth in housing development and a new passion emerge for activity centre living, which will transform our activity centres. We need to work with trader and landowner groups to further develop a distinctive identity for each activity centre, which will help attract people and trade to city centres. Enhanced planning and effective civic engagement will ensure our city develops and maintains standards of liveability and remains welcoming and accessible for people of diverse backgrounds.
I’d like to see our city emerge as a popular destination for local, regional and metropolitan visitors, boasting diverse cultures, food, community and recreation facilities, open spaces, events and festivals.
How Ms Grigsby came to be Wyndham’s CEO
Kelly Grigsby took up the role of Acting Chief Executive of Wyndham City Council in September, replacing Kerry Thompson. Ms Grigsby first joined Wyndham council in 2012 as Director Community Development. Prior to that she held a range of senior positions at Moorabool, Glenelg and Colac Otway Councils. She also spent a year working as an advisor in the Solomon Islands.