We backed out of this project because every group wanted to make India House. We therefore decided to let them do it and promised to support them. Nothing has happened, and nothing is likely to happen, unfortunately. Its a sad situation.
Let us do a quick review.
The Indian Australian community in Australia comprises of about 500,000 people, out of which about 160,000 reside in New South Wales. Ours is a growing community and about half of our people have migrated to Australia during the last ten years.
Every community is unique and has its special characteristics and requirements. In this sense, we are no different from the other multicultural communities in Australia. Many of these requirements can be fulfilled by a Community Centre (India House), which acts not only as the centre for all community/social interactions and mentoring/guiding services, but also for entertainment activities. Private family occasions like weddings and other events can also take place there. Any such centre should have sufficient space and facilities to cater to a range of activities. This Centre should be able to self-sustain financially, and should be run professionally.
Despite being a major community, we do not have this community Centre, which is in total contrast with other communities like Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Serbian, Croatian and others, many of which are smaller than ours, but do have such community premises.
India House has been talked about for more than 25 years but nothing obviously has happened. Talks and visions should have moved to something realistic and something fruitful by now, but it is yet to happen. We believe that it did not happen only because serious and sincere efforts were never made, and people who talked about it lacked the vision and leadership. “Me too” syndrome among associations and “leaders” have been the biggest obstacle.
Indian Consulate General in Sydney has a place where smaller events can be done in some circumstances but its space is limited and its situation in CBD is not all that convenient. It can not substitute India House. This place should be in the Western Sydney, where most of Indian Australians live.
Projects of this nature require huge capital to make it happen. We strongly believe that finances can be raised if there is a group of dedicated & committed people in our community who have integrity, vision, determination, perseverance, willingness and capacity to work on the plan for 5-7 years. The fund raising components must have multiple components, and it should include fairs, charity drives, direct contributions from the community, and also sponsorships from governments and businesses.
Our initial spadework informs us that there is sufficient goodwill for this huge venture in our community. We recognise that the biggest hurdle in this huge task is the distrust community members have towards community groups/leaders because they have not been transparent, accountable and result oriented, and in fact, some have used their groups for financial benefits. To make it worse, some have become branches of political parties. It is a common knowledge that finances generated from events, small and large, have often been mismanaged and possibly misused. The fund sourcing process therefore must remain ethical, transparent and must be supervised by at least three reputed finance professionals. This fund-raising must have the charity status and tax concessions.
As I see it, there is a need for a nodal group of 20 key people who will do the initial work, using the expertise in law, planning, project work, finance, Real Estate, accounting and marketing among others. They will work without charging any remuneration.
This project would need meetings with community representatives/leaders, key members of Indian community and businessmen, and members of media with the purpose of brain storming, exchanging ideas, revising and fine tuning the project. Media is so essential for this project and this project will have to be an “inclusive” work as far as practicable.
The Project should be super headed by a management committee, Board of Trustees and Advisory Council, and will have membership with defined benefits of such membership. The guiding principle will and must always be transparency, accountability and proper governance with an added motto of “service with integrity”.
Can we expect our community groups to take this project earnestly and start the process afresh? Can we make a fresh start? Can we collaborate? My friends and I are happy to support a group of this nature and their work, provided this group has people with integrity, ability, capacity, networking and vision. This is a project for the whole community.
Leadership is open and available here.
Please come forward and show us the leadership.
Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/29th April, 2016