Dr Gunvantrai Premji NakerThis Australia Day, a few distinguished Indian-origin honourees made the final list of the prestigious Order of Australia recipients who have been chosen for their invaluable contributions to the Australian community.

The first of the two major annual Australian awardees lists for the esteemed Order of Australia awards, coinciding with Australia Day, which falls on 26 January, was announced. These awards are conferred on Australian citizens who have done commendable work for the welfare of the multicultural Australian community.

This year 549 exemplary Australian citizens were chosen to be bestowed with this honour. Although there are many celebrity nominations, more than 40 percent of the recipients are integral members of the local community of which a select few are Indians by birth. On this 26 January, as India celebrates its 71st Republic Day, these humanitarian Indian-Australians have indeed made the historically significant event a much prouder one.

Prof. Sarva Daman Singh – meticulous and dedicated work in tertiary education

Professor Sarva Daman Singh (Courtesy Griffith University)A distinguished resident of Brisbane, Prof. Sarva Daman Singh has played an instrumental role in fostering awareness about Asia in general and India in particular, especially since there has been a downgradation of Indian studies at top Australian universities in recent times.

A double doctoral from the University of London and the University of Queensland, Dr Singh moved to Australia in 1975 after serving in several senior capacities at numerous universities across Northern India. The educationist is also credited for authoring books on diverse topics related to ancient Indian warfare and polyandry in ancient India. He has also penned a biography on Mahatma Gandhi in which he has offered his own insights on Gandhi Ji.

For the past two decades he has been the director of the Institute of Asian Studies in Brisbane. His genuine devotion and drive to spread awareness about Indian studies deserves accolades, and this makes him one of the most deserving recipients of the OAM.

Umesh Chandra – significant contribution to the multicultural community of Queensland

Umesh ChandraAnother Indian-origin Australian from Brisbane who has been honoured with the OAM is the 66-year-old Umesh Chandra, publisher of the Brisbane Indian Times. He and his wife, Usha Chandra, were also the joint awardees of Brisbane City Council’s Citizen of the Year award last year.

Mr Chandra migrated to Australia in 1987 and became one of the founding members of Hindu Society of Queensland in 1991. Since then, he has worked selflessly for communal harmony and is trying to tackle many other social issues in the society. Due to his humble attitude and sense of service to the community, he was made the liaison officer to safeguard the interests of Indian students who were encountering the threats of brutal attacks in the country during 2008 and 2009. A savior in the truest sense of the word, Mr Chandra deserves to be acknowledged with this prestigious honour, especially when he believes so strongly in multiculturalism. Besides being the president of Queensland Multicultural Council, he is also the multicultural advisor to the Lord Mayor and the Police Commissioner.

On being congratulated on his OAM achievement, Mr Chandra thanked all the community organisations, including FICQ, for providing him the platform for the community service. As to the inspiration behind his service-to-the-community attitude, Mr Chandra says, “I attribute it to my parents who instilled in me the essence of community work.”

Inderjit (Indy) Singh – dispelling darkness through eye care program

Inderjit SinghFounder of the charitable organisation Vision Beyond Aus, Inderjit (Indy) Singh has, literally, retrieved many visually impaired individuals, belonging to the deprived sections of society, from the abyss of darkness through his eye care program, which he launched in 2011.

Having been acquainted with the idea by two of his friends, Dr. Jay Chandra and Dr. Shailja Chandra, philanthropists spearheading eye care programs among the poverty-stricken in different parts of the world, the Sydney-based businessman decided to launch this initiative on a larger scale. So far, the foundation has been doing charity work in various cities across India, Nepal, Myanmar and Cambodia, and there are plans to take this to Ethiopia next. Indy was chosen for the Australia Day program for his noteworthy charitable works in the field of eye care.

Promilla Gupta – contribution to the Indian and multicultural Australian communities

Promilla Gupta (Courtesy Facebook)Pammi Gupta, as she is hailed among her peers and friends, the erstwhile President of the Indian Australian Association in Adelaide (2007-2009), is a popular social figure in Adelaide and Newcastle. A community service devout, she is renowned for her event management skills as well as for her unique ability to engender cooperation among community members.

For about 35 years, she has channelised her passion for cooking in various ways — running a restaurant, authoring cookery books, cooking for philanthropic drives and providing healthy and delicious food for new migrants and foreign students. A former resident of Whyalla, where she arrived in 1983 with her husband Satish Gupta, she also conducted cookery classes at the local TAFE college. She has also been instrumental in raising funds to the amount of $20,000 for the Spastic Centres of South Australia.

Pammi Aunty, as she is affectionately addressed among her young peers, has been chosen for this prestigious award for selfless social work for the well-being of the diverse ethnicities in the Australian community.

Dr Sadanand Limaye – dedicated service in the field of medicine

Dr Sadanand Limaye (Courtesy Facebook)An integral part of Adelaide’s Indian community since 1974, Dr Sadanand Limaye, a cardiologist, has been well-known for his humanitarian works. He began his professional career at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide in 1979 but in 1984, he commenced his own practice, which is running successfully even presently. Although he retired from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital many years ago, he continued to work voluntarily and even conducted classes for medical students and only about a year and a half ago did he actually retire at the age of 74.

He also holds the honour of being the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award by South Australian Indian Medical Association in 2010. Post retirement, Dr. Limaye continues to do community work while studying the essence of Hindu philosophy. The physician, whose name ‘Sadanand’ means ‘forever happy’, epitomises his name and has even spread this happiness among those whose life he has touched.

Dr Gunvantrai Premji – dedicated service in the field of medicine

Another deserving physician is Sydney-based Dr Gunvantrai Premji, or Gunu Naker, as he is popularly known. Currently serving in Eastbrooke Medical Centres, Carlton, NSW, he is known for his perseverance and dedication to providing the optimum care to his patients in his 50-year-old career.

He also completed a fellowship in acupuncture, having realised the risks of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. He has endeared himself to Sydney’s Indian community for his voluntary work in association with several charitable organisations such as RAIN (Resourceful Australian Indian Network).