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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Page: 3007

Mr BYRNE (7:22 PM) —I rise tonight to speak about a very noteworthy event that I attended in the vicinity of my electorate of Holt. It was my great honour to participate in the annual the Holi festival last Saturday at the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in Carrum Downs. I celebrated this event with many members of parliament, including the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian parliament, Daniel Andrews. All of us were struck by the beauty of the temple, which is surely one of the most beautiful and ornate places of worship in Australia.

The Holi festival is an ancient festival which celebrates the victory of good over evil with the help of the divine. It also celebrates the triumph of devotion. These are universal ideals that are especially relevant in light of the many natural disasters the world has suffered over the past few months. I think it is useful for all of us, regardless of our religious background, to strengthen our faith and renew our commitment to each other.

What I experienced everywhere around me on that day was the faith and commitment of the Hindu community and the rich traditions on display: the burning of sandlewood and the bright colours on people’s faces and clothing, placed there with laughter and with love, are just some of the traditions that were celebrated and revered. I believe that celebrations like this enhance us all.

One of the great triumphs of the Australian experience is to allow people from every corner of the earth to make this place their home, to share their cultures with their fellow Australians and to do so in an atmosphere of mutual respect and shared understanding. That belief was reinforced for me by many from the non-Hindu community who also attended the event and revelled in it, sharing the experience in a spirit of happiness, understanding, mutual respect and shared commitment—values which make this country the best place on earth to establish and build a future, regardless of race, colour or creed.

The Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in Carrum Downs, where the Holi festival took place last Saturday, is one of the biggest traditional Hindu temples in the southern hemisphere and it has existed since 1994. The temple runs Hinduism classes, encourages the use of the HSV library, organises religious and spiritual lectures and workshops, and, importantly for the community, hosts events that recognise significant important Hindu festivals such as the Holi festival. The temple has its place among major temples all over the world. The vision, the dedication, the courage and the spirit of the Hindu community of Victoria gave the people of Victoria a priceless and everlasting legacy in the form of this truly magnificent temple. It is shared with the rest of the community and is accessible to the rest of the community, and it is meant to be so.

This unique temple transcends time barriers to remain an icon symbolising the contribution of the Hindu community to the Australian community as a whole. Mention of the temple would be imperfect without the mention of hundreds of volunteers who sacrificed their time and worked with missionary zeal to create and construct this edifice.

I am always pleased to be asked to attend events of this nature, because to me they emphasise what makes Australia a great community. I am proud of and wish to recognise the role played by the Indian, Sri Lankan and other Hindu communities who came to Australia and made it their home.

It is often said that when the Catholics came to Australia they built their churches; and in building the churches they sunk their roots into the community and made the community their home. This is exactly what is happening with the Hindu community as well as more recently arrived communities. When you look at the temple and you see the spirit of the people who were sharing in that particular festivity, and you see how other people can share their experiences at the same time—and thousands of people attended this event—I think it says a lot about our very unique place in the world and the fact that we can attract people from other parts of the world and make them feel part of our community but also share in our community. I wish to congratulate the committee of management that were involved in organising this event: Mr Vijeyakumar, Dr Anavekar, Mr Thanikasalam, Mr Mahendran, Mr Wickiramasingham and many others involved in organising the Holi festival.

We are aware that there have been push-and-pull factors involved in these people coming to this country. But the fact is that everyone that I saw at that event who was sharing their history and their culture was proud to be Australian and proud that the event was making Australia the rich and dynamic culture and country that it is.