Australian High Commission
New Zealand

High Commissioner: Rotary Club Diwali Charity Dinner

Remarks by H E Harinder Sidhu, Australian High Commissioner

Rotary Club of Auckland Harbourside

Indian New Year (Diwali) Charity dinner

Eden Park, Auckland

Saturday 25 November 2023


E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e rau rangatira mā,

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa


Namaste, Sat Sri Akal, Vanakam and greetings to you all. 

It is a great pleasure and honour to join you here this evening.  My sincere thanks to the Rotary Club of Auckland Harbourside for your kind invitation.

I’d like to acknowledge:

  • Harjeet Golian of the Rotary Club of Auckland Harbourside, and committee members

  • Cat Levine, who is our guest speaker this evening

  • Dr Paramjit Parmar, Member of Parliament

  • Former Members of Parliament Mr Kanwaljit Bakshi and Mr Mahesh Bindra

  • Former District Governors of Rotary District 9920, and Incoming District Governors Vidya Nand and Nick Dangerfield of District 9930


Rotarians, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As a person of Indian heritage myself, and as a former Australian High Commissioner to India, I am keenly aware of the tremendous diversity that exists in India.

So it is with the date for Indian New Year.  When I searched to find the date, I encountered a wide range of options, varying according to community or region around India.

This celebration this evening of course falls around the Diwali festival.  It is a time that is close to my heart and that of many people of Indian origin around the world.


The Diwali story celebrates the triumph of good over evil; of light over dark.  It is a reminder to us all that, with love, faith and strength of purpose, we as humans can prevail over adversity.

That is indeed something to celebrate, which Indians do every year with the lighting of candles and diyas, in the company of close friends and family. And of course accompanied by delicious food and sweets.

The very many good causes that this Charity Dinner supports this evening will also bring light to the lives of many people, putting into action the spirit and values of Rotarians the world over.

Your focus on supporting mental health is particularly welcome.  For all of us, this is one of the most challenging issues to address.  It is complicated because for many sufferers, there remains a stigma attached to this illness in the way that it is not with most physical ailments.

If ever we needed to bring light to darkness, to build strength and to give comfort through bringing love, faith and purpose, it is in mental health.

So I am delighted that this is an area of focus for us this evening, and I look forward to hearing from our guest speaker Cat Levine, who is far more knowledgeable than most of us on this topic.


My engagements with Rotary over many years have also raised my appreciation for the tremendous work it does around the world to promote peace. 

This is where the work of diplomacy and Rotary align.

At no time do we need these efforts more than right now.  We are living in some of the most challenging strategic circumstances for many decades.

Russia’s illegal and immoral war in Ukraine, and now the horrific events of October 7 in Israel and its aftermath, illustrate to us all in very stark terms the sheer human cost of conflict.  It is terrible to see, and impossible to look away.

At the same time, we live in a world of rising tensions among states, where the risk of conflict continues to rise.  The causes are many and include climate change and its impacts, the ongoing effects – on health, social cohesion and on economies – of the Covid-19 pandemic and growing strategic and economic competition.

We are called upon – not just as professionals, but as human beings – to do what we can to build the forces of peace. 

This goes beyond lofty statements at international meetings. It is about ensuring that our development assistance actually responds to the needs of recipient countries; that we work to strengthen their communities through supporting health and education and to support their security through building resilience to climate change.


It has been a great pleasure for me to see how closely Australia and New Zealand partner on all these objectives, especially in our immediate region in the Pacific.  This was on display just last week at the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands.

This work needs more than governments.  It has to happen at every level, especially at the community to community level, in big ways and in small. 

So I am delighted to see that part of the proceeds of this evening will go to supporting education for underprivileged youth in Fiji.

This is one important contribution to community strengthening that ultimately helps build peace and security in our region.

It is one way out of many that we are all working together to bring light simply through our respect for human lives and wellbeing.


So, on that note, I’d like to wish you all a very happy Diwali and Indian New Year. 

May the forces of light give us all the courage and strength to overcome adversity and make the world a better place.

Thank you

Nō reira,

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.