Approaching 50: Malayalee Association Victoria’s journey

By Indira Laisram
Members of Malayalee Association of Victoria // Pic supplied

In 1976, a small group of Malayalee families (primarily from the southern Indian state of Kerala) came together and formed an organisation. They named it the Malayalee Association of Victoria (MAV), marking the first association of Malayalees in Australia.

Since its inception, the organisation has grown significantly. “Initially, there were five or six families, and over time the numbers grew. It is still growing today; it’s now a large association,” says Madanan Chellappan, current MAV president. Notably, MAV will celebrate its golden jubilee next year.

Like many other diasporic organisations, MAV’s primary aim is to provide “a unique platform for the younger generation to learn and preserve their ethnic culture and values,” Chellappan notes. “Nowadays, you see the kids have grown up and interact more with the wider community than just the Indian community.”

Today, MAV boasts nearly 3,000 members and a structured leadership comprising a president, general secretary, treasurer, and 17 executive committee members, including two joint secretaries. It serves as an association for Malayalees who have made Victoria their home, yet Chellappan stresses it is also open to other communities.

Hariharan Vishwanathan, the treasurer and senior member, elaborates, “We interact with other communities and provide assistance as needed, without regard to community boundaries.”

MAV President Madanan Chellappan // Pic supplied

MAV is emblematic of living in a multicultural space, believes Alan Abraham, the general secretary. He points to events such as sports tournaments in tug-of-war, badminton, soccer, and cricket, which involve participants from diverse communities. “We have around 60 teams participating in these events,” Abraham adds.

Chellappan identifies preserving culture, particularly among the younger generation, as a key motivator behind MAV’s establishment. “We also assist Malayalees settling in Australia during their initial stages and support those already residing here through unexpected challenges,” he adds.

“We’ve had two phases with some divisions around 2008. I wasn’t part of the previous phase but have been involved since the second phase, and since then, I’ve been with the association. What I observe is that it was inevitable, but we emerged stronger. Now, it’s one of the best associations in Australia,” reflects Chellappan.

Vishwanathan asserts that while Victoria hosts numerous Malayalee associations, MAV remains “one of the largest and oldest.”

MAV Treasurer Hariharan Vishwanathan // Pic supplied

There are significant lessons in MAV’s journey and methods for community building. For example, efforts to include Malayalam in the VCE curriculum aim to ensure younger generations maintain proficiency in their mother tongue.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, engagements with the Victorian Curriculum Authority led to Malayalam being offered in schools up to Year 12, albeit in select schools with higher demand. “However, challenges such as inadequate funding and technical issues persist,” Vishwanathan notes.

The Victorian School of Languages (VSL) had already partnered with selected schools across the state to offer Malayalam classes on Saturdays, separate from the regular curriculum. During his tenure as secretary, Chellappan successfully advocated for the introduction of Malayalam classes up to Year 12 in these schools. Previously, Malayalam was only studied up to Year 10.

During COVID-19, MAV collaborated with Flyworld Travels to organise a chartered flight service from India to Australia, assisting stranded individuals. In 2018, during the Kerala floods, MAV coordinated with other Malayalee associations in Melbourne to provide aid to those affected, many of whom had lost their homes and belongings across the state.

MAV General Secretary Alan Abraham // Pic supplied

Next month, MAV is hosting its largest festival, Onam, an annual harvest and cultural celebration primarily observed by Keralites.

“It is a full-day event starting with a flower carpet, cultural activities like dance and singing, and a delicious vegetarian feast. We invite celebrities from India, and this time, we are honoured to host South Indian movie artist Bhavana (Karthika Menon), acclaimed for her contributions to the Malayalam, Kannada, and Tamil film industries, as our chief guest. Other artists will also be attending, although their names have not yet been announced.

“We expect 1500 attendees, which is the capacity of the venue, Springvale Townhall. This was our only option,” says Abraham.

Next year marks a significant milestone for MAV as it celebrates its golden jubilee. Plans are underway to commemorate this occasion in a grand manner. Abraham reveals that there will be a youth festival, a science exhibition, arts and culture workshops, and various other events.

Chellappan states that the goal is to provide a platform for local talents to showcase their skills and foster an appreciation for their culture.

Pic supplied

In its journey so far, he acknowledges the work of the community elders who established a platform and paved the way for others. “We are committed to promoting and continuing their legacy.”

MAV holds a significant position in the community, acting as a crucial link between the government and community members. “We have demonstrated considerable influence thus far, and this will remain an ongoing focus. Our robust operational framework supports these efforts,” says Chellappan.

The crucial focus, emphasised by Chellappan, Vishwanathan, and Abraham, among others, is ensuring the seamless continuation of the efforts of past and present elders and actively fostering leadership qualities among the youth.

“As we emerge stronger from the challenges posed by COVID-19, we are fully mobilised,” says Chellappan.

By preparing the next generation to shoulder the responsibilities of community leadership, MAV is poised to elevate itself into an even more influential platform.

The Indian Sun acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Connect with Indira Laisram on X

Support Śindependent community journalism. Support The Indian Sun.

Follow The Indian Sun on X | InstagramFacebook


Donate To The Indian Sun

Dear Reader,

The Indian Sun is an independent organisation committed to community journalism. We have, through the years, been able to reach a wide audience especially with the growth of social media, where we also have a strong presence. With platforms such as YouTube videos, we have been able to engage in different forms of storytelling. However, the past few years, like many media organisations around the world, it has not been an easy path. We have a greater challenge. We believe community journalism is very important for a multicultural country like Australia. We’re not able to do everything, but we aim for some of the most interesting stories and journalism of quality. We call upon readers like you to support us and make any contribution. Do make a DONATION NOW so we can continue with the volume and quality journalism that we are able to practice.

Thank you for your support.

Best wishes,
Team The Indian Sun