Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) [7.22 p.m.]: I will start by saying "Namaste". I am pleased to bring this matter of public importance to the House to recognise a festival that is important to the subcontinent community across Australia and my community of Strathfield. Deepavali, also known as Diwali, is held at this time each year and represents the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. The festival is symbolised by light, a powerful symbol of hope. In New South Wales there have been and will be celebrations held in towns and suburbs, the most significant of which have been organised by the Hindu Council of Australia. The council describes Deepavali as "a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship, religious tolerance, spreading the word of peace and harmony, and, above all, a celebration of the simple joys of life".
In Sydney, the council has held two events, in Martin Place and in Parramatta. On each occasion there was a sense of community and of coming together as one in hope and happiness. I recognise the leadership of Professor Nihal Agar. In this place I have previously recognised the work of the council and I do so again today. I am sure the members representing the electorates of Parramatta and Granville, who are in the Chamber, will tell us more about the Parramatta festival. While the Hindu Council of Australia's celebrations have been significant, Deepavali has also been celebrated in temples across Sydney and New South Wales. On Sunday I attended the Sri Venkateswara Temple at Helensburgh, one of the most significant Hindu temples in the Southern Hemisphere. I acknowledge Dr Baska, Nat'aranjan Iyer, Sunhil Kabra, Seetha Raman, Rao Abbineni, Praveen Challa, Nama Namashivayam and Sangarapillai Subramaniam for their work in organising the festival, which included dance, song, friendship and extraordinary food. The celebration ended with fireworks that lit up the night sky, an inspiring symbol for the Deepavali celebration.
At the Shirdi Sai temple in Strathfield South in my electorate there were prayers this morning and tonight. As I speak in this House, there are three aarti that will be illuminated only by candles. As I have done previously, I recognise the wonderful leadership of Jack Tollani and Dr Rao. At Strathfield Town Hall on Saturday night I joined my community in yet another celebration of Deepavali, which was supported by Strathfield Council. It was a wonderful night, with plenty of Bollywood dancing—and, yes, I danced. I love these celebrations. I acknowledge Amrit Hingorani, Bharathi Reddy, Devendra Kumar, Shailendra, Jhingran, Vasantha Puvanandera Nathan, Ajay Kumar, Dinesh Garg and Ushe Krishnan. This coming Saturday I will also attend a Diwali celebration in Strathfield Town Square.
In Parliament we have also celebrated Deepavali with the support of the Community Relations Commission. Those of us who were present saw the Premier assisting in the lighting of the lamp. Dr Hari Harinath, Chair of the Community Relations Commission, congratulated six seniors this year for their work in fields as diverse as literature, community service, mental health, senior care and yoga. There are different interpretations of Deepavali, and also different pronunciations. I hope I do it justice when I say that the festival commemorates the return of Ram, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, from his 14-year exile with Sita and Lakshman after killing the demon king Ravan. The welcome home included lamps and fireworks; it was a victory over evil, of light over darkness.
I follow Marendra Modi on Twitter, and his delight was obvious today when the President of the United States of America called him to wish him happy Diwali and to let him know that they were celebrating Diwali at the White House. In Sydney, the Opera House will be lit up tomorrow night, and I encourage Sydneysiders to consider the meaning of Diwali or Deepavali when they look at those famous sails turn orange. This is a significant celebration that is increasingly being acknowledged around the world. It is my hope that this continues to happen. There is much to admire about the festival and the people who celebrate it.