Business owners of the Indian Diaspora in Harris Park, located in Western Sydney, are renewing efforts to have their area officially declared “Little India” in anticipation of a visit from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The push to make the declaration has encountered a setback due to the Geographic Names Board instructing the Parramatta Council to cease using the term in marketing materials, citing potential confusion. Despite this, many locals and Sydneysiders continue to refer to the area as Little India.
The business community believes that formal recognition of the name would increase tourism to the area. Parramatta Council recently supported a modified proposal to apply the name to a section of the suburb, encompassing Wigram, Marion, and Station streets. Councillor Paul Noack, who proposed the motion, stated that it would put the area on the map.
Councillor said, “We want to make it an international destination on the same lines as Little India in Singapore and other places around the world.”
Parramatta Council has revised its proposal to rename Harris Park as Little India, now suggesting the name be applied to a specific trading area within the suburb. Councillor Paul Noack has emphasized the importance of this proposal in light of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Australia and the federal government’s commitment to invest $3.5 million to enhance the area.
The funding, which was allocated in the October budget, will be used to finance a Little India gate, along with new street furniture, lighting, and improvements to car parking facilities.
Sanjay Deshwal, the president of the Little India Harris Park Business Association, has revealed that the idea of officially naming the area Little India was first proposed in 2015. Since then, the number of Indian businesses in the area has doubled from around 30 to about 60. Although the initial proposal was dismissed as “ridiculous,” Deshwal is now confident that the timing is right to make the name change.
He has emphasized that the current proposal would not replace the suburb’s name, Harris Park, but instead designate the three main streets as a cultural precinct, similar to Little Italy in Leichhardt. Harris Park, a small suburb located next to Parramatta, has witnessed significant migration from countries like Lebanon, Italy, Greece, China, and India.
In recent years, it has become a popular destination for Indian migrants, with 45% of the suburb’s 5,043 residents born in India, according to the 2021 census. Deshwal believes that the area is vital in helping newcomers to settle into their new home country and create a sense of belonging.
The prospect of a visit from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi next month is generating excitement as it could solidify Harris Park’s status as Little India in the world’s eyes. The president of the Little India Harris Park Business Association, Sanjay Deshwal, hopes that Mr Modi’s visit can lay the foundation stone for the welcome gate, which will be “a monument to acknowledge the Indian diaspora for the first time in Australia.”
The federal member for Parramatta, Andrew Charlton, believes that the planned upgrades, including the Little India gate, will turn the area into “a beacon of South Asian culture around the world,” regardless of the bureaucratic naming process.
Parramatta Council has formally invited PM Modi to visit Harris Park during his trip. Although previous efforts to rename Harris Park were “bogged down,” focusing on the trading area where Indian businesses are concentrated is a simpler approach, according to Mr Charlton.
Parramatta Council is still in talks with the Geographic Names Board, and the board spokesperson stated that it is yet to receive a formal application to assign the name Little India.