Parramatta’s deputy mayor Sameer Pandey is the first person of Indian origin to reach the post in any major Australian city.
After recent NSW council elections, Labor councillor Sameer Pandey was elected deputy mayor of the Parramatta city council. He is the first person of India origin to become a deputy mayor of a major council such as Parramatta. Earlier, other Indian-origin councillors have held the post of deputy mayor in smaller councils. For instance, Gurdeep Singh was the deputy mayor of Hornsby Council in Sydney.
He says it recognizes the contribution the people from the Indian subcontinent are making to the Australian community.
An IT professional, Pandey hails from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand and arrived in Australia in 1999 on a business visa. Soon, he started his own business and actively took part in community work.
‘Politics happened by chance as I joined Labor party 15 years ago. As a result, I got the opportunity to run for council in 2017 and then again in 2021,” Mr Pandey told NRI Affairs.
Sameer Pandey agrees that it is difficult for migrants to find a place in active politics as it needs time and connections in the community.
“Those who have spent a short period of time in this country might not be ready sometime. But, at the same time, if they have spent time and effort, it makes it easier for them to get into these sorts of roles because they understand the community’s issues. They understand the needs of the community,” explains Mr Pandey.
Do Australian political parties ignore migrants when it comes to giving chances in active politics?
“It works both ways, I think,” answers Mr Pandey, adding that he has received ample support in the party.
“It matters if you can deliver. But, at the same time, there might be a level of reluctance because they don’t know you well or you have not had the chance to demonstrate your skills,” he said, emphasizing that migrants need to have representation in all levels of government.
He says the Parramatta council achieved a lot in the last term, and there are some big plans for the near future.
“We would like to make parts of Parramatta, Harris Park and other areas as destinations for people to visit and not just stop on their way to the Blue Mountains. We would like to revitalise Parramatta into a nighttime economy, which is one of the focuses in the coming few months,” he said.