Positive management of challenges is high on Minister for Multiculturalism’s agenda
By VISH VISWANATHAN
The Hon John Ajaka, MP is simple, approachable and displays great affection for multicultural communities. This was my impression on meeting the NSW Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, Minister for Multiculturalism, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council) – a large and varied portfolio, but Mr Ajaka is well up to the challenge.
Here are excerpts from Mr Ajaka’s exclusive interview with The Indian Telegraph.
Vish Viswanathan: What are your major goals and challenges in relation to multiculturalism, with so many diverse communities in NSW?
John Ajaka: We live in a diverse state in Australia. We take pride in our ability to continuously live cohesively and in harmony, benefitting each other. In NSW, harmony is in action. The multicultural community and its growing contribution in art and culture, trade and investment, and education are an asset to the state. Any challenge to multiculturism can be turned into an asset with strategies in place. In short, I believe in positive management of challenges.
VV: With an increase in numbers of youth succumbing to alcohol, drugs and violence, how will the proposed ‘countering violent extremism early intervention program’ benefit them and the community?
JA: Issues of drugs and alcohol are always problems, and are managed by agencies such as Family and Community Services, Police and Justice. These issues are not restricted to youth alone, but affect all communities. We will continue to fight these issues and work with communities. The program reinforces NSW’s commitment to the Federal Government’s initiative in building resilience to violent extremism and care will be taken in its implementation. We need to protect our youth, and the support of the Premier helps, but we cannot do this alone – we need support from communities to make this program work.
VV: What are your thoughts on divisive campaigns such as ‘Reclaim Australia’?
JA: I completely disagree (with such a campaign), as their motives are wrong. The Australian way of life is to work with all cultures and communities, and live together harmoniously. My message (to such campaigners) is, ‘come and work with all communities’.
VV: How can the fast growing, highly educated and skilled Indian community contribute to the NSW Government’s initiatives on multiculturism or other projects?
JA: The Australian Indian community here is already doing a great work, for itself and other communities. They contribute to culture, economy, legal services and assistance to vulnerable sections of the community, seniors and disabled people. Both the SBS Chairman and the Chair of Multicultural NSW are of Indian origin, and good examples of the contribution by the diaspora. So please continue your good work and continue to assist communities in NSW.
VV: There is a strong need for a cultural centre or a building for the growing Indian community. Would you support such a project?
JA: As the Minister for Multiculturism, I always am open to great ideas. Parramasala is one such example. Parramasala is funded in the budget this year and will be a great event. However any projects (such as the cultural centre) for the benefit of community need to be developed in partnership with the Government. We need to work together (and not depend entirely on government support).
VV: Your message to The Indian Telegraph?
JA: It is a great publication that carries great stories. I enjoy reading them. Congratulations for winning an award at the Premier’s Media Awards. I am certain your publication will do great work across many years.