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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 254


Ms OWENS (7:54 PM) —This is my first opportunity to acknowledge the beginning of something great in Western Sydney. In November this year the best of India and its region will come to Parramatta through a new international festival called Parramasala—a five-day celebration of extraordinary works from the Indian subcontinent. This event follows on from the successful staging of a performance by the famous musician Rahman in Parramatta Park, an event that attracted around 60,000 people. New festivals of this quality do not come around often, particularly events that are such a good match for Western Sydney and its population.

When it comes to things Indian most of our attention lately has not been on the arts; it has been on the preparation for the Commonwealth Games, which will be hosted by India shortly. I know that all of us here wish them well. I hope once the games begin that it is a great event, highlighting the best in sport, venues and hospitality. My wish for India, our friend, is that the games bring to them all that they hope for and that the world sees India through these games as the extraordinary country that it is and that the games open the eyes of the world to the rich, vibrant world that is India.

I know my own large Indian community want us all in this country to see their first homeland in the best light, to share their love of their country of birth with those of us who share their new home, Australia, their country of choice. I know my community are holding their breath as this is the event that they have been looking forward to. I am holding my breath with them. I know too that they are also looking forward to Parramasala and an opportunity here in their own community to showcase the best of their country of birth.

For me, India has much more to offer than cricket. My community does remind me over and over again that Australia and India share a love of cricket, but I have known and loved classical Indian music, dance and art for many years. Western classical music and dance are great art forms requiring years of training and discipline; Indian classical music and dance require no less. They are truly great classical forms. It is a great pleasure for me in my electorate to be invited to the recitals in music and dance and to see young Australian boys and girls performing at a high level in these extremely difficult and complex forms. We are well and truly growing our own cultural form here in Australia. I have had the opportunity over many years to hear some extraordinary musicians, contemporary improvisers, from around the world—performers that stretch the edges in style and standards—performing in Western Sydney, often just down the road, who have been brought to Australia by strong community organisations in my local area. For cultural life, Western Sydney provides extraordinary variety and often at the highest standard. I want to acknowledge the work of the many community organisations that have built the standard and variety of cultural expression in Western Sydney and very much formed the basis of this new festival.

I am pleased to see that in November this year we will see a logical extension of what our diverse communities brought with them when they made Australia their home—a festival of South Asian arts staged in Parramatta. Parramasala will bring the best from the subcontinent to Australia and it too will provide an opportunity to showcase the rich cultural traditions of the subcontinent—classical forms and modern forms infused with tradition—and collaborations with artists from across the globe. I am really excited by this event and I am pleased to see that parliament will not be sitting because I might have been absent without a pair. I doubt that my cries of, ‘It was Nitin Sawhney,’ would have cut it when it came to explaining my absence. But, more seriously, the arrival of Parramasala on the festival calendar should herald the arrival of a significant ongoing contributor to cultural life in Western Sydney and Australia. It is not a small event. It is funded by Events New South Wales and the Parramatta City Council. For me, it is one of the most exciting programs for an arts event that I have seen in Australia in recent years. I am particularly proud that it is going to take place in my backyard.

I will not go through the program in any depth because it would feel like a total plug, but I will just mention one fantastic event—A Throw of the Dice, which is a long-lost 1929 silent film by German director Franz Osten set in India, with composer Nitin Sawhney performing on stage with orchestra and traditional Indian musicians. It is a fantastic event which was originally staged in Trafalgar Square for thousands of people and we will see it in Parramatta Park in just a few weeks time. Some events in the cultural life of a nation deserve to be marked—the emergence of a new writer or film director or the opening of a new concert hall, which supports so much activity. I believe that this event, Parramasala, in the heart of Western Sydney is one such an event.


The SPEAKER —Order! It being 8 pm, the debate is interrupted.