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‘Feel like I belong’: Students praise university module exploring Parramatta’s Indian ancestry

SBS Punjabi

paramatta indian ancestory

Macquarie University's Paramatta Cultural Day module celebrates Australia's diversity. Source: Getty

Published 2 June 2022 at 3:57pm
By Sumeet Kaur
Source: SBS

The first batch of students to complete Macquarie University’s new Parramatta Cultural Day Module have praised its efforts to promote multicultural appreciation, understanding of Sikhism and Hinduism, and the contributions of South Asians in Australia.

Published 2 June 2022 at 3:57pm
By Sumeet Kaur
Source: SBS

  • Parramatta Cultural Day Module is part of Macquarie University's Global Leadership Program
  • It aims to celebrate the diversity of Sydney's Parramatta suburb which is home to the country's biggest population of Indian and South Asian people
  • Students of South Asian heritage expressed happiness with the two-week module, saying they appreciated the recognition
Part of Macquarie University's Global Leadership Program (GLP), the two-week Parramatta Cultural Day Module aims to enhance students' understanding and appreciation of the role multiculturalism plays in the Sydney suburb. 

Francis Ventura, a 31-year-old Global Leadership Advisor with the university, said celebrating South Asian culture, language and religion can help reshape perceptions of Australian identity.

francis ventura
Francis Ventura, a teacher and a part-time Australian army soldier during a school project he coordinated in Peshawar, Pakistan. Source: Supplied by Mr Ventura
Paramatta is home to the biggest population of Indian and South Asian people in Australia and has become synonymous with multiculturalism due to migration going back hundreds of years, especially during the 20th Century.

"Our manager, Anneke [Rowe Courtemanche], and I discussed possibilities, and a new module focusing on Parramatta and South Asian culture was the perfect fit," Mr Ventura told SBS Punjabi.

"So, we dedicated a few months to crafting a module that would be interactive, engaging and stimulate critical thinking." 
paramatta cultural day module
The module aims to celebrate the contribution of Australians of South Asian descent and develop a greater appreciation of multiculturalism among student. Source: Supplied by Mr Ventura.

Mr Ventura, who also serves as a part-time soldier in the Australian army, said he a lot of thought was put into developing the learning module. 

"Creating the Parramatta Cultural Day module was important to recognise and celebrate the extraordinary contributions that Australians of South Asian heritage have made to the country, even before Federation.

"For example, the sacrifices of the Sikh Anzacs, along with the extensive community service commitments of the Sikh community today, who epitomise Australian values and humanity," he said.

The first batch of 90 students has just completed the module, with many praising the high-level critical reflections on racism and multiculturalism. 

Students expressed happiness at seeing multiculturalism celebrated in this way, with those of South Asian heritage saying they appreciated the recognition.

Priyanshi Patel, a 22-year-old engineering student who lives in Parramatta, told SBS Punjabi that the module taught her a lot about the "beautiful religions" of Sikhism, Buddhism and Hinduism.

priyanshi patel
Priyanshi Patel, an engineering student at Macquarie University. Source: Supplied by Ms Patel
"We learnt to make daal, and we also shared our daal recipes, and other students had a go at cooking it. I visited a Sikh gurudwara and a Hindu temple as part of the module's activities.

"I also started learning the Urdu language through this interactive module."

Jessica Vilina Pulipaka, another student participant, found the module very insightful.

"Coming from an Asian heritage, I found the module to be diverse in its teachings. It was a journey of self-discovery that gave me a sense of belonging," Ms Pulipaka said.

Neha Bhatt, a second-generation Nepalese Australian, was astonished at her newfound knowledge.

"I was amazed about South Asians' contribution to Australia, which I was not aware of. Especially the Sikh Anzacs, who fought at Gallipoli and faced the highest casualty rates in the war.

"I learnt that the term 'guru' is used in Punjabi, Hindi, Nepali and many more languages," she said.

The GLP is a free, co-curricular program designed to help students develop knowledge of international issues and cross-cultural communication skills.

It's available for undergraduate, postgraduate, and study abroad and exchange students of Macquarie University.

The primary purpose of GLP is to further the understanding and appreciation of Australia's rich and diverse history, cultures and religions.

Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to this interview in Punjabi.

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