Federation Square, Melbourne 3 November: Celebrate India Inc. deserved it and it got it from none other than Premier Daniel Andrews when he declared Fed Square Diwali organized by Celebrate India Inc. was the country’s biggest and best Diwali celebration. The hard work of Arun and Jaya Sharma and their team who have sacrificed a lot in the last 15 years – was recognized not only by the premier but by thousands of people who had come to celebrate this national, now iconic event.

Ten years ago BT had described their efforts as ‘putting India on the map of Melbourne’ – when more than 12 thousand Melbournians, not just Indians had flocked to Fed Sq to watch Diwali celebrations.  Arun, Jaya and their selfless dedicated volunteers – have delivered more than their brief and now Fed Sq Diwali is – the biggest and best ever.

And whatever is biggest and best – politicians just love to be there. And so they were – Premier Daniel Andrews, Opposition leader Matthew Guy, Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott, among others. Both Premier Andrews and Matthew Guy used this excellent opportunity to sell their messages for November 24 election.

To a roaring thunderous applause, Premier Daniel Andrews, addressing the frolickers at Fed Sq said Diwali @ Fed Sq was the best and biggest in Australia.

And then the Premier announced that Labor will establish Victoria’s first Indian Community Infrastructure Fund and $3 million fund will be allocated for the Indian community for infrastructure including temples, places of worship and community centers, under a re-elected Andrews Labor Government.

“With a dedicated fund, Labor will support our Indian communities in upgrading and enhancing temples and community centres”, Premier Andrews said.

A re-elected Andrews government will also invest in community language schools. Currently more than 1,200 students are enrolled to learn Indian languages at community language schools.

Labor’s funding will also include $50,000 to kick-start the accreditation of Hindi schools.

These announcements build on Labor’s commitment to fund land for Indian aged care and establish a Bollywood and Indian Cinema Attraction Fund.

As election times are – when sweeteners rain and rain cats and dogs, the state opposition were not to be left behind. The leader of the Opposition, Matthew Guy in his address announced ‘in April next year, finally ground will be broken for a $45 million 108 beds dedicated Indian community aged care facility’.

This is in addition to state Opposition’s commitment to provide funding for the Sikh Games, ISKCON temple in Albert park, Rock Bank temple, Keysborough temple, Vaisakhi march, a new community centre in the South East, a sister-state relationship between Victoria and a state in India, funding for Hindi in Victorian schools.

Other VIPs included VMC Chairperson Helen Kaplos and Acting CG for India in Melbourne Rakesh Malhotra.

The quality of program presented at Fed Sq will be envy of any entertainment provider. It is ‘fultoo masti’ and nothing allowed you to feel ‘not trapped’ for the day.

Celebrate India has kept their word in delivering the objectives of  facilitating better understanding of the Indian culture and its diversity among wider Australian community through its major festivals.

A funding announcement of $500,000 by Daniel Andrews to Celebrate India Inc. will help in bigger and better celebrations in the coming years.

– Shalini Singh with K. Dev

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