If you think that Indian migration to Australia is a new phenomenon, you’d be wrong. Did you know that there were Indian cab drivers in Brisbane in 1860? An exhibition organised by AIHS at the Parliament House in Melbourne in September displayed the deep role played by the Indian community in Australia’s rich history.

Australia and India have often been called sibling countries because of the close cultural and social bonds they enjoy. Even as back as the fighting at Gallipoli that commemorates Anzac Day, the help given by the Indian gurkha regiment has been well documented. Now, in an exhibition held last month from 12-16 September, the contribution of hardworking Indians to Australia’s history was shown.

Here are a few highlights of the exhibition:

  • The event showcased research done by Australian Indian Historical Society (AIHS) into contributions made by the Indian community to Australia’s history.
  • The main topics covered are: India’s involvement in mounting the First Fleet, the role of Indians and Anglo Indians in the discovery of Bass Strait in 1797, the first Sikh religious service in Benalla, Victoria, in 1920, and the Muslim and Sikh cameleers who explored inland and outback Australia.
  • The event was an eye-opener for those who are ignorant of the role Indians played in shaping Australia’s multicultural fabric and the role they played in the formative years of modern Australia. For instance, the AIHS, which was founded by Len Kenna and Crystal Jordan, has posted a picture on its Facebook page of an Indian who was a cab driver in Brisbane in 1860s.
  • Among the many exhibits was a container of Sundar Gutka, which was used as a means to perform funeral rites of Sikh hawkers. In total, this exhibition has brought together about sixty two years of research on the part of founders Len and Crystal, and also the many Victorian Gurudwaras that have supported their work.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Robin Scott, Minister for Multicultural Victoria, and it was hosted in the Parliament House in Melbourne. We hope that the government takes up many more such initiatives that celebrate the combined history of Australia and India in a bid to bring both the countries and communities together to build a better, more unified Australia.

Deepak Gopalakrishnan

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