IT’S a real pleasure and an honour to be here with you today to celebrate Diwali with you.
This festival is going to get bigger and bigger every year. I can see it.
My name is Sonia Smith and I am a local lawyer and active member of our local community.
I lived in India for a year between 2003 and 2004. I am privileged to share some thoughts from an ex-pat perspective with you.
When I was in India I was thrilled to learn that in Hindi my name – which is, Sonia – means nice things (golden) so I am very happy about that.
One of the greatest memories I have during my time in India is walking around during Diwali and looking with wonder at the luminous candles and lights which were everywhere.
The lights lit up the roads and the streets. It was truly magical. In India during Diwali there was spirit of the festival that permeated everything.
It touched all the senses. The incense and fragrance made the air dance.
The glorious colours were a feast for the eyes. The best food in the world charmed my palate.
The kindness of the people I felt in my heart. India is the one place in the world where I could have stayed forever.
The great sages in all cultures in all ages tell us we will only triumph over evil if we bring in the light. Chasing away darkness is not enough.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
This wonderful message resonates across all cultures.
Today at the Festival of Lights, I, along with you, pay tribute to the light that shines in all of us and that is our common humanity. We celebrate the eternal victory of light over darkness.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank you. We are very proud of the achievements of the Indian community in Ballarat and everything that you do for this city.
Hard working, tolerant, rich in culture and history, highly educated, tech savvy, family oriented, civic minded, enterprising and with the unparalleled record of being the world’s largest democracy.
I believe that if we want to make our regional cities, such as Ballarat, the world class cities that they can be and aspire to be, then we would do well to enhance our ties with incredible India.
To thrive locally, we need to be connected to the global economy.
Ex-pat and migrant communities are a natural bridge to do this. These strong community ties also provide a form of social protection that helps buffer the negative effects of globalisation.
The Indian ex-pat community is probably one of the largest and most successful networks in the world.
Today’s global world economy is network-based.
Having such a strong ex-pat Indian network is an enormous asset for our city and allows us to gain local benefits from global opportunities.
But there is much, much more potential to be tapped here.
Simply put, cities that encourage and support strong ex-pat networks attract sustainable foreign investment and perform better than those that do not.
Many overseas Indians may know the big metropolitan centres such as Melbourne and Sydney.
They are often in the limelight. To bring more Indians to our regions we need to do much more to promote the potential of regional Victoria.
We need to promote Ballarat as a potential site for Indian investment and a destination for Indian students and families to make Ballarat their home.
Ballarat must be known as a place that supports local business, prosperity, job security and show cases our proud multicultural identity.
Festivals such as this one here is a perfect way to do this and I honour you all and wish you Happy Diwali.