The AIBC NSW and Qld State Chapters jointly hosted a special Virtual Event on 26 January 2022, to celebrate Australia Day and commemorate India’s Republic Day and 75 years of Indian Independence. The well-attended event, brought together government and business representatives from Australia and India, as well as Indigenous business leaders, AIBC members and sponsors.
Irfan Malik, AIBC NSW State Chapter President and Co-Host of the evening with Indu Balachandran, AIBC NSW Management Committee member, in his Welcome Address said this was an important day when Australia and India had come together to connect, reflect and be part of their shared vision to shape their future. “The core theme of the event is celebrating and fostering Australia India bilateral People to People Connect to Enable Business to Business Outcomes and Impact, and never before have Australia and India been so close in multicultural and bilateral opportunities. I want to also introduce the smiles framework. Whenever there are bilateral opportunities, there’s a focus on the SMILES framework which recognises small, medium and large enterprises, but also indigenous businesses and startups as well. AIBC has a strong focus on indigenous business collaboration and support, and I’m pleased to welcome some of our indigenous business leaders today.”
Indu Balachandran said the AIBC promoted business engagement across nations very much through relationships between people and hoped this was the start of connecting Indian, Australian and First Nations people who have a vision of collaboration that will lead to strong cultural, economic and social outcomes. “Having worked for many years in indigenous businesses, social enterprises and within indigenous communities. I believe that Indian and indigenous businesses must and will trade. We will trade and share stories and cultural knowledge. And within all those, I think will be the strongest shared future for this nation.”
In his Welcome to Country Address Steven Coghill, Indigenous Affairs Advisor at Santos, Brisbane, thanked the AIBC for incorporating the indigenous perspective on this Australia survival day and mentioned his connection to his place of birth was the same as that of his father, and those of his ancestors, who all had a traditional, custodial attachment and responsibility to southeast Queensland. He said, “First Nations people, and Torres Strait Islander people, have been involved in the economic development of this nation and continue to explore opportunities to improve our economic outcomes. Indigenous people are always exploring prospects of political, economic and cultural integrity.”
In his Keynote Address Jim Varghese AM, AIBC National Chair, acknowledged the importance of indigenous representation at the event and also acknowledge Florence Drummond as the first elected AIBC indigenous executive committee member from Western Australia. “AIBC had over 35 years of promoting trade and Investment with a focussed and visionary approach of building partnerships and collaborations. We have further strengthened our bilateral business commitment by establishing the Australia India Business Enterprise (AIBE) the commercial arm of AIBC. AIBC maintains a close relationship with the state and federal governments of Australia and India and industry. With chapters in every state and the ACT, national industry chapters representing a range of industry including Agribusiness, Defence & Security, Education & Skills Development, Infrastructure, Financial services, Healthcare, ICT & Digital, Make in India and Women in Business. Going forward AIBC will continue to work towards building stronger platforms in facilitating and nurturing growth opportunities for business and investment between Australia and India.”
Congratulating the AIBC on this prestigious event Manish Gupta, Consul General of India, Sydney, said bilateral ties between India and Australia had grown from strength to strength. “The comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries and regular high level interactions between our Prime Ministers are indicative of this relationship. The determination of both governments is to conclude a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement by the end of the year. This offers valuable opportunities to both Indian and Australian businesses.”
In her video message, Archana Singh Consul General of India, Brisbane, said over time the shared values and the shared commitment to liberal democratic ideals. “We are natural partners, on the cricket field or in the field of trade and commerce. I acknowledge the great work that has been done by all on both sides and look forward to the future, as the possibilities are limitless. Members of the Indian diaspora and Indian businesses, who now call Queensland home, must be congratulated for their contribution to our robust society.”
Through a video message from Chennai, Sarah Kirlew Australian Consul General, South India, said the shared national day was just one of the many wonderful connections Australia had with India. “The elevation of the Australia India bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership reflects the strategic connection we find about in our values and interests in a rapidly changing world. On the trade and economic front, New South Wales and its businesses are strongly represented here in South India, as well as Indian companies with a large investment presence in NSW. The NSW Government will also be appointing a local trade commissioner in Bengaluru, joining our growing presence there, with the trade office soon to be upgraded to a full Consulate General.”
Julian Leeser, MP, Federal member for Berowra, mentioned the Indian Constitution as a reminder of the key pillars of the Australia India relationship – both were democracies believing in the rule of law and international rules of law. And through the QUAD Agreement, the broader engagements on maritime matters and the importance of India as a partner for Australia.
Trudy Witbreuk, NSW State Director DFAT, acknowledged all Australians on this special day, and recognised the fundamental role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders played in the nation’s history, present and future. She said this was also an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of diaspora communities to Australia’s modern multicultural character, and the Australia India community in particular, which played an indispensable role in modern Australia. “So today we celebrate Australia’s history. We celebrate our nation, its achievements and most of all its people.”
Marc Higgins, CEO Community Resources, highlighted the importance of a self-sufficient, self-funded Aboriginal business community. He said Aboriginal people had been business oriented for centuries, criss-crossing Australia’s trade routes as evidenced by historic artefacts from the Top End to Gippsland. “It’s really the last couple of 100 years that we’ve been excluded from being able to participate in the economy. Participation in the economy is critical for Aboriginal people, because it’s really through us generating our own wealth that we will have the opportunity to spend and invest our wealth.” He looked to building a relationship with AIBC for future business and investment opportunities with India. “So I think it would be very interesting as we start this journey together. This is about people building relationships with people, so that businesses can build relationships.”
Scott Allen, CEO Mandurah Group and Director, NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce (ICC) speaking on Australia India Indigenous business collaboration, said his group had been Instrumental in creating and supporting new businesses in partnerships with Tier One organisations that have similar social aspirations and goals. This created an ecosystem for First Nation businesses and generated, not only business opportunities, but employment prospects for First Nations people. “But the most important part to this, the foreign effect goes all the way through to community. You know, we’ve really created businesses that are commercial organisations first and First Nation businesses second, and through this commitment, we’ve also created commitments to the Paulina Cloud Foundation, tackling issues for First Nation peoples when it comes to mental health, entrepreneurship and education. The solution to the challenges facing indigenous business is to start working with organisations like the AIBC and create real and meaningful change and new opportunities for our future.”
Congratulating AIBC on the event, Melanie Crosswell, Director of the India Economic Section DFAT, ACT spoke on the shared vision of the two countries for a resilient, inclusive and open Indo Pacific region, through the QUAD Agreement, the Indian Rim Association and through partners such as ASEAN and the United Nations. “The Australian Government is working to strengthen our economic ties, negotiations for CECA are underway, with the aim of concluding negotiations by the end of this year. We are also updating the Indian economic strategy so that we can better engage the Indian diaspora and expand links in sectors that align with our shared geostrategic interests in critical tech, critical minerals and renewable energy.” She urged Australian and Indian businesses to seize the moment and opportunities for them.
Susan Moylan-Coombs, CEO of the Camargo group highlighted the importance of storytelling in the Indigenous culture, shared by India along, with a common colonial past. “Australia Day means survival day for First Nations people. So, for us, it’s a day of healing. There is real opportunity, for First Nations People to create a different future and a different narrative. The opportunities to collaborate with India, for business and to share culture and our different nation’s cultural expressions, could really bring us together.”
Dr G.K (HARI) Harinath OAM emphasised the importance of the Indian diaspora in building bilateral bridges between the two countries. He said in the past 50 years the Indian community had not only grown and assimilated in Australia, but had brought a wealth of cultural changes including cuisine and heritage. This, coupled with organisations like the AIBC, had establish those business relationships so essential for the progress of the nation.
Thanking the speakers and acknowledging the enthusiastic support of the AIBC team organising this event, Nik Senapati President AIBC Qld State Chapter, said while AIBC couldn’t hold an in-person event, the virtual event had brought more people together from across the country and internationally, as well as a wealth of speakers from both countries, including the indigenous perspective. “And as Mark Higgins and Scott Allen talked about the indigenous people trading for centuries, but to be excluded for the last 200 years –what an opportunity for AIBC to step in and take that chance of linking and enhancing that trade. Our speakers have said here are two democracies and we believe in many common values and the message of reflect, respect and celebrate and bringing people together. It was Ambedkar, in chairing of the constitutional committee, when he wrote the Indian Constitution drew heavily on the Australian Constitution. That says a lot on how we can work together in the bilateral trade.”
He also thanked the amazing talent of all the entertainers who performed through the evening, from the Australian and Indian National Anthems by young Janaki Easwer; the Koomurri Indigenous Group’s Didgeridoo Performance; the Sari Club dance recital; the harmonious fusion of the Tabla and Keyboard flawlessly performed by Kush and Parth – to the Sur Sagar Conference of Rhythm.