Umesh and Usha Chandra have been involved in social work in Australia since the time they moved to the country over three decades ago. The couple has been jointly awarded 'The Citizen of the Year' 2019 at the Brisbane Lord Mayor's awards.
An Indian-Australian couple has been jointly named the Citizen of the Year in the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Australia Day Awards 2019.
Umesh and Usha Chandra have been recognised for their untiring social service, generously devoting their time to support migrants and their “significant contribution” to Queensland’s Indian community.
Mr Chandra says this award is special and it came as a “complete surprise”.
“We have had many awards before. But this one is the first that recognises a couple together,” he told SBS Punjabi.
“When I received the letter, I was preparing to send my wife’s name as the guest accompanying me to the ceremony. Then I read it again and then realised that it was for both of us,” the 64-year-old added.
The person who nominated them said: “Umesh and Usha are team players that make themselves available to everyone. They are role models for new migrants."
The Council says the couple have strengthened the connection between many cultures of Brisbane, promoting social harmony and multiculturalism.
Mrs and Mr Chandra moved to Australia in 1987 and have been involved in social work since their early years in the country.
“We lived in Sydney for just one year and then we were visiting Brisbane for our first Christmas break and we decided to call the city home,” Mr Chandra said.
It was also because Brisbane was more affordable than Sydney even back then. The couple bought their first home and helped get the city its first Hindu temple. That was the beginning of their social endeavours.
Mr Chandra is also a member of the Global Association of the People of Indian Origin which has multiple chapters worldwide and the couple have played an active role in it since the beginning.
It’s not just during the glittery events and fundraisers for community initiatives that they are actively seen involved, Mr Chandra has also played a significant role to ameliorate some very difficult circumstances for Indian students when they were facing a spate of violent attacks in Australia.
“Though it was not as bad in Brisbane as it was in Melbourne and Sydney, we did send a few bodies back. I was appointed the liaison officer by the State Government and then the Federal Government recognised me as a ‘People of Australia Ambassador’ to promote the Australian way of life and integration,” he said.
Mrs and Mr Chandra were heavily involved in the construction of the Mahatma Gandhi statue in 2014 that was unveiled during G20 in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Despite a busy work life, the couple continues to spare time for social work and Mr Chandra who as a White Ribbon Ambassador campaigns against domestic violence, volunteers at the Hindu temple and other charity works, says the award would inspire him to do even more.
Mrs Usha Chandra is also a familiar figure in Brisbane's Indian community, continuously volunteering her time to organise both social and fundraising events, including the India Day Fair that has become a feature of the Brisbane calendar.
Through her involvement in GOPIO, Usha has actively promoted networking and business events that have been essential in helping migrants to feel settled in the Brisbane community. Usha has also supported new migrants, connecting them to local authorities to build good working relationships.