Springvale Town Hall, Springvale, VIC
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land we are meeting on today, and pay respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging, and Aboriginal Elders of other communities who may be here today.
It is a delight and privilege to be here and to join you for this wonderful Onam celebration.
I thank the Malayalee Association of Victoria for the kind invitation, in particular, I acknowledge office bearers:
- Thampy Chemmanam;
- Madanan Chellappan;
- Uday Chandran;
- Vipin Thomas;
- Bobby Thomas;
- Mathew Kuriakose;
- Sathish Palliyil;
- Shaiju Thomas;
- Vishnu Viswambaran;
- Shoby Thomas; and
- Jojan Alex.
I would also like to acknowledge:
- The Honourable Anthony Byrne MP, Federal Member for Holt;
- Representatives of the City of Casey including:
- Mayor Amanda Stapledon;
- Councillor Damien Rosario; and
- Councillor Wayne Smith;
- Jithesh, Vice Chairman of the Kerala Cartoon Academy;
- Adam Khan of the Casey Cardinia Region Tourism Organisation and President of the Casey Multifaith Committee; and
- the leaders of other community groups who are present today.
As the Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, it is truly a pleasure to attend this event.
Today we celebrate the Indian tradition of Onam, the most important festival of the Indian state of Kerala, and for Australia’s Malayalee community, whose ancestral links are to Kerala.
Onam is a harvest festival, marking the homecoming of the Asura king Mahabali, who ruled Kerala in ancient times.
Mahabali’s spirit is said to visit Kerala each year at the time of Onam to check that his people are happy, well-fed and content.
Onam celebrations bring people together in the spirit of community, togetherness, generosity and righteousness. It is a time to unite and celebrate in harmony and friendship.
Today’s event provides an opportunity for us all to share in the food, dance, music, games, traditional costumes, and flowers that are characteristic of Kerala’s rich and vibrant culture, and to celebrate Australia’s Indian community.
Indian Australians have been a part of the Australian community since the 1800s.
Today, around 700,000 people of Indian ancestry including Malayalee call Australia home, of whom more than 230,000 live in Victoria. More than 50,000 people in Australia speak Malayalam at home, of whom almost 17,000 live in Victoria.
In 2017-18, India was the largest source country of new permanent migrants to Australia and more than 135,000 Indian nationals have taken the pledge to become valued Australian citizens during the past six years.
Indian Australians contribute across all facets of Australian life—helping to ensure we continue to be one of the most successful multicultural nations in the world.
We owe our accomplishments to the contributions of more than 300 ancestries—from the First Australians to the newest arrivals.
This vast diversity has been absorbed into our culture and today we benefit from a unique mix of skills, experiences, culture and enthusiasm.
Our diverse multicultural society is successful because we respect and embrace the rights of all Australians to practise, celebrate and maintain their cultural and religious traditions, within the law.
We are rightfully proud of our cultural diversity and our stable, cohesive and united society. Australians are not divided by our differences, but we are united by our shared values. We believe in freedom; in the rule of law; and in democracy. And we believe that all people are equal—and should have equality of opportunity—regardless of their cultural background, race or religious beliefs.
Such values inspire respect, community spirit, and a willingness to lend a hand to others.
I take this opportunity to congratulate the Malayalee Association of Victoria for your ongoing efforts to bring people together for events such as this wonderful Onam today.
Indeed, the Association had its foundations back in the 1970s as a small organisation linking about 30 families in the Melbourne area to preserve Malayalee culture.
The Association has grown since then—now with about 1500 family members—and has continued to be a vehicle for expression of Malayalee heritage and traditions.
I thank the Malayalee Association of Victoria for organising the Onam event and sharing this colourful Indian tradition with the wider Australian community. I wish you every success with your celebrations.
Thank you for having me here today.