Being Indian, branding India

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Little India Australia
Little India Singapore
Jospephs Gate

With this being the month that India’s Independence is celebrated—70 years and counting—it’s perhaps the perfect time to look at what’s happening to our own proposed cultural precinct in Victoria. For over a quarter of a century, ‘Little India’ has been chugging along in Dandenong—growing from a few shops to a hub of trade of all things Indian. But despite population  growth in the area, there hasn’t been much change by way of growing the vision, nothing to take the “brand” forward. It’s still only a tiny strip with a few grocery and clothing stores, museum and restaurants and very limited parking. Nothing to really inspire a visitor or to give a visitor a taste of India.

Following Victorian government’s promise to fund an Indian cultural precinct in the state, Dandenong was selected after consultation with the Indian community through an advisory panel, community consultations, written submissions and an independent feasibility study. The government has further committed to a second Precinct to be established in Wyndham, given the region’s growing and thriving Indian community.

Monash Council was also granted $50,000 by the State Government to undertake a feasibility study into establishing an Indian cultural centre in Oakleigh. People of Indian heritage make up the second largest migrant group in Monash and Monash has the fifth largest Indian-born population in Victoria. Several Monash Indian community leaders and groups have expressed the need for a community space to celebrate Indian culture and heritage.

With a lot of community interest in promoting and establishing a genuine cultural precinct in Victoria, it’s time the Indian government chips in to help grow this vision and contribute towards shaping the precinct

Apart from Wyndham and Monash, now there is also a genuine growing demand for a Little India to be established in the the Cranbourne area. Politically, Cranbourne is a marginal seat and most Indians who live in the area are first generation Indians. If the community in the area join together, they can make a huge difference influencing the politics in the state.

It’s important that the existing Little India and the proposed cultural precincts in Wyndham or Monash is not modelled just around curry and Bollywood. From various conversations I’ve had with community members, they want a Little India or a cultural precinct that evokes the idea of India to its visitors. And the idea of India is the idea of pluralism. Indians are not a homogenous group that eat curry and dance all day and that should very well reflect through these projects. This projects should stay clear from stereo types and it should also be multi-cultural -it should be Punjabi, Tamil, Gujurati, Malayali and more.

With a lot of community interest in promoting and establishing a genuine cultural precinct in Victoria, it’s time the Indian government chips in to help grow this vision and contribute towards shaping the precinct. Not by means of interfering in the functioning but by helping its diaspora to have greater and easier access to the support it needs to establish a precinct. This cooperation will further enhance India’s already strong ties with Australia.

I also believe India Tourism can take advantage of this opportunity and involve various states in India to collaborate with Little India spots and cultural precincts in Australia. A ‘Little India’ should be a hub to promote Indian tourism, culture and art and strengthen community groups in Australia that work in this space.

In this issue, we also speak to some Australians of Indian origin on what the day means to them and what feelings it evokes in them. We weren’t surprised when we heard most continue to “treasure the country they were born in”. “The only difference is that I now have two countries to call my own,” said one of them.

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