Abhishek Joshi: Visionary behind Townsville’s beloved India Fest

By Indira Laisram
Dr Abhishek Joshi // Pic supplied

Dr Abhishek Joshi, an oncologist, stands out from the norm as he was granted the Australian Royal College Fellowship without an examination—a testament to his exceptional skills and qualification from India (more on that below). Read on how this successful medical professional put an Indian cultural festival on the map of Townsville—India Fest Townsville (IFT).

Joshi initially intended to work at Cairns Base Hospital for only 1-2 years when he arrived in 2008. However, 15 years later, he is now the Director of Oncology at Townsville University Hospital.

While working at the Cairns Base Hospital, he was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of Physicians in 2010. “Initially I was the sole oncologist in Cairns, but now we are a team of seven oncologists at Townsville University Hospital,” he says. “It has been extremely rewarding to see our trainees and past students come back and join us”.

Dr Abhishek Joshi // Pic supplied

Joshi’s successful professional life encompasses several roles, including serving as a visiting oncologist at ICON Cancer Centre and Mater Hospital. Additionally, he teaches as a Senior Lecturer at James Cook University, demonstrating his commitment to educating future medical professionals.

He completed his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) and subsequently an MD from BJ Medical College and Research Institute, Ahmedabad. Joshi further earned his Doctorate in Medicine DM (Medical Oncology) and the European Certification in Medical Oncology (ECMO). Before moving to Australia, he established the first private bone marrow transplant unit in Punjab, India.

Moving to Townsville in 2011, Joshi found it to be the perfect escape from his previously hectic life in India. He cites the ease of travel with very little commuting time, good schools, etc., as some of the perks that have allowed him to achieve his professional goals while maximising his family time.

Dr Abhishek Joshi with his family // Pic supplied

Of course, the first few years of moving across continents have been both exciting as well as challenging. Moving to a new country with a different culture requires adjustments on all fronts including professional and social, believes Joshi.

“This experience is familiar to many migrant specialist doctors and there is always an initial teething period that can last for a few years. It was not easy when Monika (wife) had to work in Adelaide, and I was in Cairns with my little kids. But these short-term sacrifices are necessary for longer stability,” he adds.

“Townsville is not as diverse as metro cities in terms of migrant population. It is still a predominantly Australian country town,” says Joshi. “When I moved in 2011, there were around 400-500 Indian families which has now grown to around 1,000. And from one to multiple Indian grocery stores.”

Dr Abhishek Joshi // Pic supplied

“You always miss your family when you migrate, but you make friends as you go along, and develop your social circle,” he adds. That was when Joshi met people who were active in the community and wanted to do something to stay closer to his Indian roots. They formed an organisation and in 2013, successfully organised India Fest, a one-day event celebrating Indian culture, cuisines, and the arts—with support from the local council, the Indian High Commission and local Indian businesses.

The biggest surprise, says Joshi, was the turnout, which was three times higher than what they had expected. “We had more than 10,000 people in attendance.”

He credits the success to the food, the diverse interactive programs such as yoga workshops, wedding booths, dance workshops, hands on cooking workshops, etc. “Besides, people in North Queensland have a fun and loving attitude and attend family events whenever they get a chance,” he says.

Dr Abhishek Joshi at the India Fest with Townsville // Pic supplied

Today, India Fest is probably the largest single day event in North Queensland. “It draws around 30,000 people from morning to evening and the public who attend are actually local Australians who get to experience Indian culture,” says Joshi, who is currently on the advisory board of India Fest, after having worked in different capacities within the organisation.

Importantly, India Fest has given him one of the joys of assimilation. “I have been fortunate to be a part of this and learn much more about India than when I was in India,” says Joshi.

Ruing the fact that some of the Greek and Italian festivals have ceased entirely as they lacked successors to carry on the legacy, Joshi is optimistic about the future and envisions the second-generation assuming responsibility for continuing India Fest Townsville as a celebration of culture, embracing a fusion hybrid style that aligns with the new generation’s preferences.

Dr Abhishek Joshi // Pic supplied

In addition, Joshi takes pride in highlighting another aspect of India Fest as a secular philanthropic organisation consisting of individuals from diverse regions of India who focus on fulfilling the requirements of the Indo-Australian community. The organisation has facilitated the provision of ventilators to India during the COVID-19 pandemic, among other initiatives.

Joshi expresses his excitement for the upcoming 10th anniversary of India Fest, which is a significant occasion for Townsville. He proudly remarks that Townsville embodies the true essence of the Indo-Australian community.

“Townsville’s work life balance is hard to beat—I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” he says.

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