A tribute to Auckland Indian Association on its Centenary
A colourful dance of Rajasthan
I refer first to these magnificent premises of the Mahatma Gandhi Centre which has been developed as a community enterprise, out of the remains of a disused bakery into a complex which operates as a centre of cultural, religious and commercial activity.
The Centre can be described as the signature of a community of people of Indian origin now numbering more than 200,000 people in New Zealand, with a considerable proportion of those residing in Auckland.
Moments of pride and honour
This building has been a source of pride for many memorable events and standing with them all has to be an occasion celebrating the achievement of a century.
There should also be honourable mention of the Gandhi Hall in Victoria Street which, from 1955 for some decades, was itself a wonderful gathering point for the Indian community and many occasions.
Young women performing the Lavani of Maharashtra
I can bring to mind myself the reception for the Indian Wanderers Hockey team in 1956 and the speech by then Leader of the Opposition Norman Kirk on the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi in 1969. Finally, for buildings there needs to be reference to the Maori Community Centre in Halsey Street where support was offered by Ngati Whatua to meetings of the Indian community in the time before Gandhi Hall materialised.
Ordeals of the community
Secondly, I want to pay respect to those many people, a great many of whom have now passed on, whose efforts on behalf of the community, in money or voluntary labour made this happen. One hundred years ago, the country was the subject of an Immigration Restriction Act and the capacity to come and be part of the New Zealand way of life was something hard fought. The number of Indian people was very limited and the prevailing attitude towards them by many in the general community more than somewhat negative.
Malayalis present a traditional Kerala number
However, hard work, perseverance, advocacy and practising good citizenship have seen positive changes in all of these things. People, particularly in the years since the 1980s have come to this country from many parts of India and other places such as Fiji and Malaysia, to become the numbers we know of today.
People of Indian origin are now represented in many areas of New Zealand life from Parliament and the Judiciary to Business and Education.
The Association which supports the efforts of the community began in 1920 and over the years has had to be resilient and prepared to move with the times. And so it has. Out of one Indian Association a number of groups have emerged representing other facets of the Diaspora.
The representation of India in New Zealand at a diplomatic, trade and governmental level began in the 1950s and has continued incrementally with time. Things are today at a high note with the active encouragement and participation provided by the High Commission of India, represented today by High Commissioner Mukesh Pardeshi.
To end, I refer briefly to the Covid Pandemic and how the restrictions on movement and gathering made it obligatory to postpone this celebration from last year until February 2021, which was a regrettable but necessary decision.
Telanganites performing a folk number of their land
There is however an important upside because this February in 2021 is special.
This month and this day thus provides me with a solid platform to wish the AIAI the Auckland Indian Association Incorporated all the best on achieving 100 years and to celebrate India Day. Please join me in suitable applause directed at the Association.
Sir Anand Satyanand was the Governor General of New Zealand from August 23, 2006 to August 23, 2011. The above is a slightly edited version of the speech that he delivered at the ‘India Day’ celebrations of the Auckland Indian Association held at its Mahatma Gandhi Centre located at 145 New North Road, Eden Terrace, Auckland on February 13, 2021. Please see related stories on this website.
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