Prof Arun Kumar Sharma is the Deputy Vice Chancellor at The Queensland University of Technology, BrisbaneIndian-origin Australians among several others who were honoured with Order of Australia awards as part of Queen’s birthday ceremonies

Australia like India is known as a vibrant, multiracial and multicultural nation. According to the June 2018 figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the India population in Australia accounts for 2.4% of the Australian population. With a total population of 592,000 as of June 2018 (Australian Bureau of Statistics), the Indian diaspora is a force to be reckoned with in Australia. They have contributed immensely to Australia’s culture, wellbeing and prosperity. This became obvious when as part of Queen’s birthday ceremonies Indian-origin Australians were among several Australians who received the country’s top honours for their significant contributions in fields as diverse as medicine, music, education and finance.

Indians’ Contribution in Medicine and Psychiatry

Among those honoured Prof (Dr) Jayashri Kulkarni, the Director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre received Member of Order of Australia (AM) medal for significant service to medicine in the field of psychiatry. She founded and now directs a large psychiatric research group, the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre. The Centre aims at developing new treatments and delivers services to people with different kinds of mental illnesses. Jayashri’s focus is on women’s mental health and she has worked in this area for 25 years to improve the quality of care for women with mental illnesses. Her relentless efforts bore fruit as a women-only wing was opened at The Alfred Hospital Psychiatry Unit. She has also been the Director of Monash Partners Academic Health Science Centre, Neurosciences & Mental Health Stream. Earlier, she was instrumental in establishing the Dandenong Psychiatric Research Centre, Dandenong hospital, and in 2015, she founded the Australian Consortium for Women’s Mental Health. Prof. Kulkarni strongly advocates women’s mental health and wants it to become a national priority, including mental health in pregnancy.

Another Indian-origin woman, Prof (Dr) Winita Hardikar, was honoured with Members AM for significant service to medicine, particularly to paediatric liver disease and transplantation. She and her colleague Dr Katie Allen had the distinction of performing the first liver cell transplant in Australia. Since 2013, she has been the Head of Liver and Intestinal Transplantation at the Royal Children’s Hospital, besides being the Director of Gastroenterology and Clinical Nutrition since 2016, and Head of Hepatology since 2003.

Urban Planning and Civil Engineering

If medicine is an area where an Indian-origin Australian has contributed significantly, they have not been far behind in urban planning and construction of buildings, the sine qua non of urbanization and development in any country. This is precisely why Mahalingam Sinnathamby, who has turned 80, was conferred Member of Order of Australia (AM) for his outstanding contribution to the building and construction industry and a host of other services to community.

It all started in the early nineties when he acquired some 2860 hectares of land near Brisbane, a place that was then facing several planning-related problems. Sinnathamby embarked on a journey to transform the place into what became Australia’s largest fully master-planned city, next only to Canberra.

A civil engineer by training, Sinnathamby’s dream has been of a city offering combined health, education, technology and transport facilities. Though his was a humble beginning, he is now one of the wealthiest persons in Australia. He is now the chairman of Springfield City Group, an organization that has supervised the building of the single largest planned city. The project had won the award of the World’s Best Master Planned Community given by International Real Estate Federation. It had also been honoured with Australia’s Best Master Planned Community, an award given by Urban Development Institute of Australia, besides winning many other awards.

Computer Science and IT

Two professors of Indian-origin Prof Arun Kumar Sharma and Prof Dharmendra Prakash Sharma were awarded Members AM for their significant services to the fields of computer science, information technology and education. Prof Arun Kumar Sharma, who is currently the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at The Queensland University of Technology, has made many outstanding contributions to many areas of research. He is the co-founder of the Cooperative Research Centre for Smart Internet Technology, a seven-year project to link universities, industry and federal and state governments in the research and development of high-end internet technologies. He also became the co-founder and Director of the National ICT Australia. This organization played a pivotal role in initiating significant ICT-related research for the Australian economy.

Another Indian-origin academician Prof Dharmendra, who was born in Fiji, is professor of computer science and is also on the Academic Board of the University of Canberra. He has done research in areas such as distributed AI and the applications of AI to human-centered modelling and problem solving. The professor believes that AI is going to bring about a change for the betterment of the society. According to him, for this to happen education needs to play its part in bringing about awareness among the people about these possibilities.

Community Service

For any society to thrive it needs to nurture its children, and resource mobilisation is the key to realization of such aspirations. In this respect persons like Shashi Kochhar are perfectly placed in any progressive society. Shashi migrated to Australia from India in 1978, and in 2019 he has been recognised with OAM for his selfless services to the Australian community, and most significantly for raising millions of dollars for Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Children’s hospital. He is the founder of Friends of Children Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that works in association with other organisations with a view to providing better health and education for children. He also spearheads a cleaning campaign for Clean Up Australia Day every year, which reminds of India’s own Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. His other contributions include donating blood over 145 times and delivering bread to aged care, asylum centres and other needy places for years.

Music and Performing Arts

But, even as humanity takes centre stage, culture progresses only with the efforts of connoisseurs of art and music. Jayashree Ramachandran, a Carnatic music vocalist, is one of them. Ramachandran was honoured with OAM for her service to the performing art through Indian music and dance. Ever since she came to Australia, she has been working relentlessly in the field of Carnatic music through performance and teaching this art form. Jayshree is the Vice-President of Federation of Indian Music and Dance, and is also the founder of Sapthaswara School of Carnatic Music. The school, which had very few students when it came into existence, is now said to be one of the best music schools in Melbourne. After striving for many years, the Carnatic music is now gaining popularity in the country.

Multiculturalism

However, Australia is a country of varied cultures, even among its Indian-origin population. To cater to the multicultural population of Australia, the endeavour ought to be to foster learning of languages and community-building. This is precisely why the significance of Dr Krishna Dhana Nadimpalli’s contributions was acknowledged and he was honoured with OAM in recognition of his service to multiculturalism in the Australian Capital Territory. Originally from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Dr Nadimpalli, an environmental scientist by profession, has always been enthusiastic to work for social inclusion and empowering communities. Towards this end he has served the Indian community as well as the multicultural community in Canberra. To serve the Indian community, Dr Krishna founded the Telugu School (Telugu Badi) in Canberra and the Federation of Telugu Associations in Australia. He has been instrumental in getting National Accreditation for the Telugu language.