Time has come to declare Diwali as NSW Public Holiday

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By Indranil Halder

In November, 2022, I attended the Diwali celebrations in Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) as an invitee of Gurnam Singh with Jonathan O’Dea (Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly.), Mark Coure (MP ), Gurmesh Singh(MP) , Scott Farlow (MLC ), Tim James ( MLC ) Daniel Mookhey (MLC) and James Griffin (MP). It happened after 2 years of interval due to Covid pandemic. It made me, very proud to see the support from NSW parliamentarians who attending the event. It reminded me of my first celebration of Diwali in 1994, when I arrived in the City of Wollongong. There I celebrated my first Diwali with University of Wollongong Indian Association of Student, joined by strong community of Indian doctors who migrated from the continent of Africa. Then over a decade ago, I attended Diwali celebration in NSW Parliament ( oldest In Australia) with Councillor( Clr) Raj Dutta followed by Sonia Gandhi’s Diwali celebration in the presence of ex NSW Premier and current Australian High Commissioner in India , Barry Robert O’Farrell.

Recently, lighting the Opera House by NSW Premiers and admired by many Sydney siders like photographer Oindrila Mitra. Her postcard photo update of Sydney Opera House illuminated for Diwali captured vivid imagination of Instagram users from across the globe. Just as a crowd of 30,000 packed in Harris Park to celebrate the festive season. Crowd also gathered in different parts of Parramatta which were attended and supported by Indian Consul General Mr. Manish Gupta from Sydney office.

During this year’s celebration, Dr Andrew Charlton (MP) spoke about his vision of transforming Harris Park with an investment of $3.5million for a Little India Gate (to represent the Indian community in Australia). A perfect Diwali gift for Little India Harris Park Business Association and made local community leader Sanjoy Deshwal’s dream come true. A video of Australian celebrity entrepreneur Mark Bouris with Parramatta Lord Mayor Donna Davis trying Indian jilabi sweets for Diwali did go viral in social media. The Guardian newspaper reported an article tilted – Sweet Celebration: Sydney’s ‘little India’ lights up as crowds turn out for Diwali, highlighted the vibrant festive celebration in Harris Park. Other local councils such as Pymble Council, North Sydney Council and North Ryde Council joined in the celebration too. Support came from many local council representatives such as Clr Penny Pedersen, Clr Jerome Laxale and Clr Sreeni Pillamarri. While stalls, cultural events and Diwali dinners were integral part of the celebration across Sydney. Other than local councils, Hindu Council of Australia presented Deepavali-2022 at Bradfield Park, Milsons Point, Pymble Ladies College Junior School celebrated the ‘Festival of Light’ and children and educators from Guardian Rouse Hill North made diyas or lamps for Diwali.

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Decoration of homes with Diwali lights is similar to Christmas is also becoming common. Recently, The Sydney Morning Herald published an article titled ‘Critical mass’: How Diwali celebrations are becoming part of the fabric of Sydney highlighting the lightening of houses and streets as part of simple joys of life while celebrating unity, tolerance and love. For me, the celebration transcends any cultural boundaries to meet three core objectives. They are broader community outreach, celebration of universal theme :Good over Evil and support of local businesses. When I was invited to a community Diwali event in Cherrybrook by Umaa Arun, I observed those core objectives being celebrated with joy of Diwali dinner, dance and music. Since 2016, popular social news platform Time Out also highlighted Deepavali celebration in Sydney. Sydney’s Indian restaurant also joined in the celebration. Manjit’s restaurant prepared Balmain Bug curry, Diwali Feast was part of the menu for Foreign Return and Taj Indian Sweets and Restaurant was ready serving high volume of delicious Diwali sweets. Super market such as Coles and Indian grocery stores sold Diwali packs. Diwali celebrations is no longer Sydney based event. It has reached other parts of NSW including New Castle, Wollongong and Central Coast.

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With the growth of educated, professional and financially minded population of nearly one million Indians, in NSW, the celebration will only get bigger in the coming years. Diwali is certainly a festival which is gaining its popularity in multicultural Australia with strong community love and support. I can confidently say, that during my participation in the inaugural Lashkaaraa Diwali Couture Show 2022 by Saroni Roy, I was amazed to see multicultural crowd at the Ryde Diwali Fair 2022 organised by Ryde Indian Association or on stage with Sanjoy Deshwal in Harris Park in its true Diwali spirit or when attending Diwali dinner at Royal Sydney Golf Club, Rose Bay with Dr Barbara Newton and her Hungarian guests. It became evident to me that Diwali can only be recognised with established Australian law for a NSW public holiday. Time is right here, right now. Let’s celebrate Diwali as a public holiday. To support Diwali as public holiday, please speak or write to your local member for the parliament.