About Us

Background

Victoria’s Indian Community is Large, and Growing

Much publicity has been given to the fact that Victoria’s Indian community is large, and growing. According to the 2011 Census India was the largest country of birth of Victorians behind Australia and the UK, with over 111,000 nominating India as their country of birth.  There are more people of Indian birth in Victoria than there are from China, New Zealand, Italy, Vietnam, and Greece. Between 2006 and 2011the number of India-born people in Victoria grew by 110%. An even greater number of people identify as being of Indian ancestry (having one parent born in India). On 08/12/2013, with the foresight and initiative Mr Vasan Srinivasan, a new organisation called the Federation of Indian Origin Multi- Faith Organisation (FIMDV) was established

The Indian Community Is Not Homogenous

As the Victorian Government’s own “Victoria and India: From Engagement to Partnership” report from 2013 identifies, “India is highly fragmented and complex. Its home to many distinct cultures and 22 languages recognized by the country’s constitution” (p.15).

Each state within India has its own language, customs and traditions. The observance of religious festivals and cultural activities conducted by those different areas inside India vary greatly.

From a religious perspective, India is a multi-faith nation, with Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains and Christians living side-by-side in relative harmony.

The Victorian Context

Similarly in Victoria, we see associations formed by Victorian Indians from different states and religions celebrating religious festivals in different manners. Cultural associations individually conduct events that are rich in regional cultural norms but represent a small portion of the diverse spectrum that is Indian culture.

Case Studies

A number of quick cases highlight a number of problems faced by the many different Indian religious groups in relation to misunderstandings and conflict that can arise through lack of awareness.

  • The Swastika: The swastika has its roots as an ancient Hindu and Buddhist symbol for prosperity. The word ‘swastika’ in fact comes from Sanskrit. The symbol is often used during festivals and other religious practice. In more modern times the swastika has been used in relation to Nazi Germany, and carries far more negative connotations.
  • Religious iconography used on clothing: A situation recently arose where a fashion designer used Hindu religious iconography – in particular the images of Hindu deities – for clothing design – particularly bikinis. Such a use has the potential to cause significant offence to some religious Hindus.
  • Vegetarianism: The Hindu vegetarian diet is complex and distinct, with unique particularities. A situation recently arose when an elderly Hindu woman was fed inappropriate food in a residential aged care setting, even though the operator in question catered to ‘mainstream’ vegetarian diets.
  • Lack of Hindu priests: A significant shortage of trained and recognized Hindu priests exists in Victoria. Training as a Hindu priest is intense and involves upwards of seven years of training in special colleges in India. More generally, the lack of recognized religious leaders results in an inability for the Indian community to train members of its own community, and those outside of the Indian community, in the unique and particular aspects of Indian religious practices.
  • Lack of understanding of Sikh attire: As Sikh community boys and men wear the turban as part of their normal attire, they look different to others in public and they tend to be the target for bullying. Establishing a process to interact with other Victorian communities is essential to resolve this issue.

The Solution: One Umbrella Organisation

Given this status quo, it is imperative to have an umbrella organization that facilitates and fosters the interaction and harmony between all Indian Victorians, regardless of religion,language or regional heritage. Indian Victorians include all Victorians of Indian origin.

Federation of Indian origin Multi-faith Organisation(FIMO)is a peak body that promotes interaction between people from Indian origin of various faiths to benefit the wider Australian society. Greater interaction and the inclusion of all members of the Indian origin Australian community in cultural events will lead to a more vibrant community and have a positive impact on mental health, general well-being and the community’s standard of living. FIMO is made up of a number of constituent member organizations (CMOs).

As the Victorian Government’s own “Victoria and India: From Engagement to Partnership” report from 2013 identifies, the Victorian Government has committed itself to “harnessing the ties between Victoria’s Indian Community and India” (p.17).

Equipping FIMO to address the current religious harmony and awareness needs of Victoria’s Indian community is vital to demonstrating that Victoria has a mature, multicultural and religiously aware understanding of the diversity within Victoria’s Indian community.

Objectives

Organisational Profile:

  • Enhance the profile of FIMO as a peak Victorian body by promoting and enhancing interaction between Australians of Indian origin who are of various faiths; and as well as with the broader Victorian community including other faith and cultural communities.
  • Continue to expand and recruit new FIMO member organisations to ensure inclusivity and full representation of Australians of Indian-origin from various faiths.
  • Seek new Strategic Partnerships with key Government departments and agencies.

Governance and organisational development:

Enhance governance and organisational systems to build internal capacity, a sustainable funding base and further professionalise the organisation. FIMO to develop:

  • a Constitution; and
  • a Strategic Business and Financial Plan.

Programs Planning, Development and Implementation related activities:

  • Identify and create a network of representative leaders from the constituent organizations to facilitate events that enhance cooperation and interaction between Indian Victorians.
  • Develop programs (including leadership training) and activities to build the capacity of the community and foster stronger relationships within the Indian community and with the broader community.
  • Create an entity-wide network of resources that can be used by constituent organizations (and their members) to directly improve their members’ health and well-being. (Lists of doctors, psychologists, lawyers, accountants, financial planners etc. who are fluent in different languages, printed in different languages, available from different sources)
  • Create a network of representative leaders from the constituent organizations to facilitate events that showcase and highlight the diverse nature and breadth of cultural activities that is present in the Indian Victorian community to the wider Victorian population.
  • Seek the participation and input of relevant experts and specialists in areas needed by FIMO.

Collaboration and partnerships:

Strengthen existing and develop new partnerships (including government bodies, other faith and communities and mainstream services providers) to ensure coordination and collaboration in all FIMO activities.

Priorities

  • Creating capacity in the Indian community by developing community leaders from all the religious organizations. This includes conducting community leadership development workshops to identify and empower individuals from various Indian cultural or religious associations.
  • Create performance and efficiency measures for use by FIMO in assessing the effectiveness of events, the value generated from funding sources (Gov and non) and a criterion of requirements process by which social projects which involve constituent member organizations will be granted funding.
  • Establishing and maintaining collaborative partnerships with individuals and organizations who can help FIMO achieve its objectives.

Funded Activities

Organisational Profile:

  • Develop and maintain website including a calendar of programs and events, resources and biographical details of the FIMO Board, etc.
  • Develop a comprehensive database of Indian groups, Indian organisations and other relevant organisations, mainstream services and individuals working with the Indian community and involved in interfaith work and activities.

Governance and organisational development:

  • Develop a Constitution including the objectives of FIMO, rules for membership, the role, powers and accountability of the management committee etc.
  • Develop and implement a 3-5 year Strategic Business and Financial plan for FIMO including agreed priority areas identified through consultation; and a plan to identify government funding opportunities and attract sponsors, donors and support from philanthropic bodies.

Programs Planning, Development and Implementation related activities:

  • Create a physical and online Indian Interfaith guide that gives readers information on various social norms and behaviours of people of Indian originto be promoted to and utilised by mainstream services, the courts, community organisations, religious sectors government and non-government bodies, etc.
  • Develop and run a structured leadership training program focusing on community leadership skills, media and public relations – working with a specialised trainer and other relevant organisations to plan modules and deliver program.
  • Promote harmony by organising events that showcase and highlight the diverse nature and breadth of cultural activities that is present in the Indian Victorian community to the wider Victorian population.
  • Create a network through which seminars, workshops and other events to exchange knowledge and insight of other faiths within the community. Such events will increase mutual understanding amongst members of the community and will build inter-faith relationships.
  • Develop a road map through workshops to research and brainstorm solutions to issues that affect all Victorian Indians in a targeted manner. This includes the creation of a reporting loop that makes the most of CMOs to ensure FIMO remains up to date with current pressing issues, demographic statistics and other important matters.
  • Train CMOs to occupy positions of community support, including family counselling, guidance, moral support in difficult periods and aid in smoothing the transition into Australian society.

Collaboration and partnerships:

  • Liaise, collaborate and explore partnership opportunities with relevant organisations, mainstream services, government and non-government bodies and faith and communities.

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