Meet the candidates


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Many Indian and subcontinent origin representatives are making their mark on NSW’s political arena

The New South Wales elections are around the corner and its heartening to not that several candidates standing from different constituencies across New South Wales are of Indian or subcontinent origin. In past years, there has been a wavering reluctance within the diaspora to involve itself with mainstream Australian politics; however this trend is rapidly changing for the better. Many more members of the community across all age groups and some even in their early 20s, are looking at making a difference to the State’s political scenario. It’s a heartening reality, as various pressing issues of the sub-continent community now stand a chance of being heard and addressed, through these representatives.

While the NSW election candidates of Indian or subcontinent origin are many, here is a snapshot of a few (in no particular order) who promise to make a difference to the economic, political and social agendas of the State.

Reena Jethi
Liberal Candidate for Legislative Council

Reena Jethi migrated to Australia from India in 2000, and as a teacher, her career has been dedicated to helping the next generation prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. “This is part of my motivation for wanting to serve the people of New South Wales,” explains Reena.

“I support my students and the community in a range of school based welfare initiatives.” On her goals for NSW, Reena states, “Throughout this campaign, I will be working hard to promote educational opportunities for young women so that they may be empowered to achieve their dreams, as there is no greater way to break down negative attitudes towards women than to educate people of the great contribution of women to society.”

Reena is strong in her support of the Liberal Party and its initiatives. “The core belief of any Liberal is that the individual, through their own drive and effort, can achieve anything they put their heart to. We believe in giving everyone the opportunity to achieve what they want through a strong educational platform, which I am passionate about as a teacher,” advises Reena.

On benefitting the Australian Indian community, Reena says, “My campaign ….is about making sure our community has access to the quality education system that the Baird Government can deliver, so that people from all backgrounds can defy expectations and achieve their dreams, regardless of their background.” Reena also has a strong agenda in relation to prevention of domestic violence.

Aisha Amjad
Labor Candidate for the LegislativeCouncil

In her own words, Aisha explains her vision for New South Wales. “I have been working in politics for around a decade and I am proud to be nominated by the NSW Labor Party as the first female candidate of subcontinent origin for the NSW Parliament Upper House.

I am passionate about women’s issues and in particular advocating for more women to be active in their local communities and in civic and political life. I love meeting and connecting like-minded women as I believe one’s own empowerment comes from empowering others. Over the last year especially, I have organised a number of women’s events from an Iftar to raise money for Eid gifts for women and children victims of domestic violence, to arranging networking events for women to engage and empower each other on the basis of mutual interests and shared values. Most importantly, I believe that the journey we are all on will take us to an even better destination if women support women, side by side.”

Raman Bhalla
Liberal Candidate from Blacktown Raman Bhalla

Runs his own accounting business and has strong ties to Blacktown’s business community. As an accomplished chartered accountant and an active member of several community organisations, Raman knows of the challenges faced by families of the electorate. He and his wife Rupinder have been married for over 11 years and have two young daughters.

Raman is committed to continuing the good work of the Mike Baird Liberal Team and will fight to ensure essential services such as health, transport and education are delivered to Blacktown.

“I want to create more opportunities for small businesses in Blacktown,” stated Raman. “As well as better public transport, to help residentscommuting to the city every day. There are already some very good projects happening in places like Parramatta and Penrith and I think we can get more projects for the area if we have better representation,” he added “I will be a strong advocate for the families of Blacktown and ensure they continue to receive the healthcare they need and deserve,” concluded Raman .

Susai Benjamin
Australian Labor Party Candidate for Seven Hills

Susai Benjamin is a Solicitor and Barrister, and Public Notary with more than 25 years’ experience in policy and legislation development and litigation within the NSW Government. He is currently a Councillor on Blacktown City Council.

Susai is available on a pro bono basis to those in need of legal advice, advocacy and assistance. He was instrumental in the creation of the Toongabbie Legal Centre, offering free legal advice to those in need, through a volunteer team of solicitors and law students.

Susai was appointed by the Australian Government to serve on the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council, resulting in establishing a multicultural policy for the nation. He has also been appointed as one of the initial People of Australia Ambassadors. “With my vision, commitment, energy and passion, I will continue to be a strong community advocate. I will not let our community be short changed or forgotten, and you can count on me to listen, understand, care and act. And I don’t give up. I’m delighted to advocate for our wonderfully diverse community. I care about our area,” claims Susai .

Balaji Naranapati
Greens Candidate from Seven Hills

Balaji Naranapati lived in the US before moving to Australia in 2001 with his scientist wife. “I am passionate about the environment and involved myself with the Parramatta Greens as a way of positively influencing the protection of the environment and responding proactively to climate change,” says Balaji.

On his contribution to NSW if elected Balaji says, “I will actively work to implement infrastructure initiatives in the Greens NSW’s $20 billion economic package which has the potential to generate thousands of jobs in Western Sydney, as well as across the state. The economic package includes investments in clean renewable energy; integrated transport including more trains and ticketing that spans multiple modes of transport; funding improvements to TAFE to make it the premier institution it was before cuts; improved funding for public schools; improved health services including improvements to existing hospitals and affordable housing.” Says Balaji, “The Greens offer a Clean Politics agenda with identified improvements to public infrastructure and services along with a clear plan to fund these initiatives. Their plans are funded without privatisation or unsustainable debt. The Greens should be elected for offering the most progressive politics for NSW citizens today. ”

Charishma Kaliyanda
Australian Labor Party Candidate for Holsworthy

26-year-old Charishma Kaliyanda was born in India before migrating to Australia as a four-year-old with her parents and brother. She recently completed her Masters in occupational therapy and works full-time for an industry group, helping engineers into the workforce. Charishma joined the Labor party about seven years ago, and has previously worked as an Apprenticeship Officer for the CFMEU and board member for the NSW Vocational Training Tribunal. She is currently Vice President of the NSW Fabians society.

Even though her family had to fight hard to make ends meet, Charishma had every chance at success growing up in the Holsworthy area. She believes that everyone who works hard deserves the opportunity to succeed. Charishma will fight against the Liberal Party’s cuts to Education, Health and Pensions.

Indira Devi
Independent Candidate from Seven Hills

A migrant from Malaysia with grandparents migrated from Kerala, Indira Devi (JP) is a Community Corrections Officer. She has extensive experience as a convenor for Juvenile Justice, and is currently serving as a member of Sydney West, Blacktown Community Safety Advisory Sub-committee. She is also a life member of IndAUS (Indian Australian Association of NSW) and CIA (Council of Indian Australians).

“I chose to be an Independent as I want changes for our community. Over the years I have watched and noticed that this electorate has been neglected and often by-passed,” states Indira. “As an Independent I am not a puppet, but a strong voice for the community. I feel that as an Independent it will allow me to make sure that the Government is accountable for their actions.

There are a number of improvements that can be done such as for housing, crime- consistency in the sentencing options, mental health and issues of people with disabilities,” she adds. Indira strongly believes that she is the best candidate for the electorate because she would be able to advocate for the community without being bound to party policy and rules.

“The Indian migrant population is increasing and I believe I would be a better candidate to bridge the gap between the Indian community and the wider Australian community,” says Indira in conclusion.

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