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By CAM LUCADOU-WELLS

Little India wins race but is still behind…

DANDENONG’S Little India has been shortchanged despite winning the race to become Victoria’s first Indian cultural precinct, says an Indian community leader.
Federation of Indian Associations Victoria past president Vasan Srinivasan said the pledged $500,000 of state funding was well short of the $2.5 million which Chinatown, the Lonsdale Street Greek precinct and Lygon Street’s Italian precinct each received.
“What can you do with $500,000?”
Museum India, which was launched in Foster Street last year, will shut its doors without healthy support from the State Government, Mr Srinivasan said.
It is seeking a base in the nearby historic Masonic Hall in Mason Street to house its vast, ancient collection of art, coins and stamps.
“We haven’t got a cent from the (state) government yet,” Mr Srinivasan said.
“But it’s easy for the minister to say we’ve got a precinct.”
He said the co-announced $500,000 for an Indian community centre in City of Wyndham was also short of the required $9 million.
“You can’t buy a three bedroom house in Wyndham for $500,0000.”
The 12-month selection process had divided Indians in different regions of Melbourne, pitting City of Wyndham, Melbourne CBD and Dandenong against one another, Mr Srinivasan said.
“The same government branded the area Little India in 2010. So why are we coming back and playing this game?
“It’s the same stuff in a different bag.
“After spending time and effort over a year and dividing the community in three directions … I say do not use my community as your political football.”
At the precinct announcement on 2 December, Multicultural Affairs Minister Robin Scott told Star News there would be further funding “in line with other precincts”.
“It will get more than $500,000,” Mr Scott said.
“We will seek contributions from traders and will be working through with the (Greater Dandenong) council for a contribution from them.”
He said Little India won the right because it was deemed “ready to go” and the region was home to vast Indian and south Asian communities, he said.
It would be the equivalent of Chinatown and Lygon Street as a cultural destination.
“This precinct will become a hub of activity – hosting festivals, a drawcard for tourism, supporting small businesses and boosting the local economy in Dandenong,” he said.
Currently, the precinct holds an annual street festival, cultural tours, 36 businesses and Museum India.
What is to come will depend on stakeholders such as Greater Dandenong Council and Foster Street Traders Association, Mr Scott said.
Some of the council and community’s ideas include a Bollywood film festival, Diwali, Eid and Chand new moon celebrations, a further marketing push and building works.
Little India trader Dinesh Chauhan said the precinct announcement gave him and other traders a “lifeline” after the upheaval of road closures and disruptions during Revitalising Central Dandenong’s initial phase.
“We weren’t sure if we’d stay or the government would kick us. With this, we can be sure.
“We will retain our livelihoods.
“It consolidates Dandenong as a multicultural city. It’s a big achievement for the Indian community.”

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