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Awards ceremony felicitates contribution of Indian community to mainstream Australia

The inaugural India Australia Business and Community Awards (IABCA) ceremony was held with much pomp and glamour on October 31 at Sydney Town Hall. In a move away from the usual tardiness of any Indian-related event, the Awards ceremony went like clockwork. Guests and award-winners were welcomed into the venue by traditionally attired ladies holding pankhas, and guests enjoyed easy conversation in a relaxed atmosphere.

The event began with MC Janice Peterson carried into Sydney Town Hall in a traditional ancient palkhi, a large ornate box like structure carried by four men. Her glee and excitement at this unusual mode of transport was endearing to the audience. This was followed by lighting of the traditional lamp by Sunjay Sudhir, Consul General of India in Sydney; Dr Hari Harinath, OAM, Chair CRC and Parramasala; Victor Dominello, MP Minister for Multicultural Affairs; Sunil Lal, Executive Chairman, Kaden Boriss; and Dipen Rughani, President, AIBC. Following a Kathak performance Mr Sudhir took to the stage and congratulated the IABCA for recognizing the achievements of the Indian community through the Awards, and in particular, the participation of youth as one of the key contributors in strengthening Indo-Oz relations.

Mr Sudhir presented awards to the winners, the first being Mohit Tolani as ‘Young Community Achiever of the Year’ for his tireless volunteering effort in promoting health care between the indigenous, migrant and general population. Mohit recently led an international project of Oral Health Literacy, with internationally recognised results. The ‘Community Arts and Culture’ award went to the angelic voice of the Indian community, Kumud Merani for her documentary ‘The Story Untold’ which highlights the genetic link between indigenous Australians and many tribes in India, a similarity going beyond DNA to include social and cultural norms. United Indian Associations Inc (UIA) won ‘Community Association of the Year’, a growing reflection of their new approach as the umbrella organisation for all associations. Stated President John Kennedy, “UIA stands for you, I and all of us”, to applause.

Minister Dominello presented the award for ‘Educational Institute of the Year’ to S.P. Jain School of Global Management, who seek to expand their operations in four major Australian cities by next year. In the hotly contested category of ‘Travel Agency of the Year’, Gaura Travels carried away accolades for their innovative use of 1300 Fly India. Urban Tadka was voted ‘Indian Restaurant of the Year’ for their contemporary take on Indian cuisine and the innovative use of various online promotional platforms. The ‘Technology Solutions Provider’ award went to GovReports, an online portal for businesses to incorporate technology in lodging BAS for clients.

A twist in the plot was the special mention of Lucky and Balbir Singh for fusing the dress code of Western and Indian attire, but also being congratulated for the Guru Nanak Free Kitchenette service (GNFK), a monthly charity drive to feed the homeless of Sydney.

Mr Dominic Perrottet, Minister for Finance and Services presented Ajay Mukesh Khandhar with the ‘Young Professional of the Year’ award for his role as one of the top and youngest lawyers for Minter Ellison, and also by Law Council of Australia. Indus Valley Designs won the much coveted award for ‘Small Business of the Year’ for fusing their passion of creativity with sustainability through importing recycled handmade furniture. Time Out Australia carried away the ‘SME of the Year’ award for their efforts in bringing in events, outings and reviews under the Time Out brand.

A highlight of the ceremony was a speech by Andrew O’Keefe, Brand Ambassador for White Ribbon, who highlighted the issue of increasing domestic violence in Australia, where one out of five woman are victims of abuse on a weekly basis, and voiced his personal anguish at these statistics. An auction of various holiday packages, wine tours and more followed, with the proceeds donated towards supporting White Ribbon.

The final award of ‘Indian Ambassador of the Year’ went to Manjit Gujral, a doyen of the catering and restaurant business. He has forged a strong reputation for well-managed events and for creating meaningful Indo-Oz relationships through his business enterprises.

The IABCA awards are the brainchild of Sonia Gandhi from Gandhi Creations, who strived tirelessly to make the awards a success. “I strongly feel that significant members the Indian community should be recognised and appreciated for their contribution towards mainstream Australia. We look forward to making the IABCA awards an annual event,” she said.

Special guests at the event included Matt Kean, MP for Hornsby; Dr Geoff Lee, MP for Parramatta; Ed Husic, MP for Chiefley; Nihal Gupta, Chair of SBS; Libby Davies, CEO White Ribbon Australia; among others. The attendees enjoyed the evening with an Indian dinner which concluded with a vote of thanks from Sonia Gandhi. Apart from a few attendees voicing concerns about the relatively high price of the tickets, the event was well appreciated

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