Professor Des Cahill, OAM, Emeritus Professor of Intercultural Studies at RMIT University and President – Religions for Peace (Australia) has said that it was a disgrace that the Indian students were told to go home during the COVID lockdown, under the Morrison Government. He said the ones who remained did not have food.
Prof Cahill was speaking at the Annual General Meeting of IndianCare, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to addressing the welfare and wellbeing needs of people of South Asian origin living in Victoria. He said that it was fortunate that IndianCare already existed from 2013 and was able to step into that emergency situation.
Prof Cahill warned about the challenge of ‘mortgage stress’ and the inevitable rising interest rates, which he felt was going to affect the poorer areas. He said what he was not expecting was the impact it would have on the younger couples in middle class areas.
Speaking about last year’s census, Prof Cahill spoke about the remarkable growth in the Indian born population of Australia and its impact on Victoria, and especially Melbourne. He said he was confident that what the Indian community will be able to contribute to Australia will be huge.
He added that the Indian born community and its leaders now have “a greater responsibility for creating and continuing to create a cohesive multi-cultural and multi-faith society”.
Prof Cahill, who also sits on the Victoria Police Multi-faith Council, said he had been made aware of ‘issues’ between the Indian Hindus and Muslims in Australia.
“It is obviously reflecting what is happening in India.”, he said, adding, “Communities have to be very careful bringing homeland politics into the Australian society.” He warned the Indian community against the dangers of religious extremism and ethno-nationalism.
Dr Mohammad Mohideen, Vice President – Islamic Council of Victoria, Commissioner – Victorian Multicultural Commission, Deputy Chair – Faith Communities Council of Victoria, former Head of Priority Engagement COVID-19 Vaccination Response and also a microbiologist, spoke about current COVID-19 situation, and the need to get people vaccinated with their 3rd and booster shots. He also spoke about long COVID and the need to be COVIDSafe.
Founded in 2013, IndianCare is a primary prevention early intervention community welfare organisation working in the areas of family violence, mental health, South Asian international student support, and alcohol and drug prevention among seniors.
Dr Jyothsna Rao, Manager at IndianCare gave an overview of the organisation’s activities in COVID-19 response, international student support, prevention of violence against women and other forms of community engagement.
Saleha Singh, who was re-elected President of IndianCare at the AGM, said, “The pandemic highlighted and exacerbated existing issues within the South Asian community—family violence, mental health, social isolation, and grief. Many of us lost our loved ones, including me, but were unable to travel overseas due to border closures. We have all been through this feeling of utter helplessness”, adding, “Despite the record lockdowns in Melbourne, we have successfully delivered our projects to the community on time and on budget.”
IndianCare received its DGR (Deductible Grant Recipient) and PBI (Public Benevolent Institution) status last year. The status has enabled IndianCare to apply for philanthropic funding and offer tax deductions to its donors.