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May 1 is Maharashtra Day: Far from Maharashtra, Marathi Language, Culture and Traditions alive in Australia

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Mumbai, April 30, 2017: A group of migrant Maharashtrians, separated by some 10,000 km of oceans and nations, have joined hands to keep Marathi language, culture and traditions alive in far away Australia.

The brainchild of the Marathi Association of Sydney Incorporated (MASI), the Australian Marathi Vidyalaya (AMV) was founded in 2008 with just a dozen-odd students grappling with the strange-sounding “foreign mother tongue” of their parents.

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After the modest beginnings, the AMV has now grown into four flourishing centres for Marathi learning with around 150 students (40 per cent girls) in different age groups in Sydney and Wollongong, AMV President Arun Ghatge told IANS in a series of social media chats.

“These are essentially weekend schools, recognised and funded through grants from the New South Wales Department of Education and Training – – Community Language Programme (NSW-DET), and governed by their rules and regulations in all aspects,” Ghatge added.

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These have proved to be a boon to the approximately 150,000-strong community of Maharashtrians, mostly first, second or even third generation migrants settled on the East Coast since decades.

Arriving in an alien land and to a different culture, many of the home-sick Maharashtrians took refuge by celebrating and enjoying festivals like Holi, Shiv Jayanti, Gudi Padva, Kojagiri Poornima, Diwali, Ganeshotsav and the like, besides holding small cultural gatherings and functions.

“However, the younger generations and those born in Australia were completely severed from their rich Maharashtrian and Indian cultural traditions… making us think of a formal approach integrated with their regular schooling, to imbibe the best of both worlds,” Ghatge said.

“The problems get compounded when grandparents visit them in Australia but simply can’t communicate with them and vice-versa, when the kids visit their homes in different parts of Maharashtra.

“Both ways, they seemed lost, and were virtually strangers under one roof. Now, we are creating a great link between our doting parents and their beloved grandchildren by breaking the language barrier,” said 45-year old Ghatge, who migrated in 2005.

The AMV launched the weekend schools, which are gaining popularity within the local community, not for “textbookish” knowledge, but using more of “learn thru fun” methodologies, and without disturbing or overburdening the children’s regular schooling in mainstream Australian schools.

“We charge them a nominal fee of 150 Australian dollars per annum, or roughly Rs 7,500, though the major portion of our expenses are covered by NSW-DET,” Ghatge explained.

The AMV team includes Ghatge, Vijaya Dhumal, Mangesh Chorat (all from Mumbai), Neha Takale, Ajay Deshmukh (Pune), Santosh Kashid (Nashik), Neera Godbole, Chitra Parab, Umesh Saraf, Amit Tere, Manoj Mali, Preeti Patki and other teaching, administration and library staff, from other parts of Maharashtra.

AMV is supported by around 25 regular and back-up teachers — trained and government-approved — at its centres in Western Sydney, South West Sydney Region, Wollongong and North Shore, and is a member of the umbrella organisation for community languages in the Association of Illawarra Community Languages Schools Inc.

Currently, the students are taught their mothertongue from Kindergarten to Class VI, with the vision to expand up to Class XII, by when Ghatge hopes Marathi would be accorded the official status of a “foreign language” in mainstream schools, and which would be available to all Australians on the lines of French, German, Spanish and Chinese.

The AMV teaches the essentials of Marathi language — oral, written and communication skills — and provides insights into the relationship between language and culture; it explores Marathi with the correct application of linguistic structures and vocabulary, and develops the students’ knowledge and understanding of their cultural heritage in a foreign land, using selected prescribed Marathi textbooks and literature.

At the end of each year, the students undergo examinations and are awarded certificates based on their performances, an event at which many turn up in traditional Maharashtrian attire.

“The changes among the younger generation are obvious. Compared to many years ago, now when the grandparents and grandchildren meet either in Australia or India, they have an instant emotional connect because of Marathi… Many seniors visiting us from India are moved to tears hearing their Australian-born grandchildren conversing properly, though accented, in their mother tongue,” Ghatge added.

Interestingly, the Australian East Coast supports over 100 different cultural and linguistic groups from all over the world living harmoniously, including Indians. Besides Marathi, there are a handful of similar such schools for Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil and Kannada languages which impart education to children in their mother tongues and have proved equally popular.

“Now, the gen-next is able to better comprehend the rich culture, traditions, language, literature and legacy of their forefathers back in India — adhering to our motto ‘Language keeps you in touch with your culture’ strongly,” said Ghatge. (IANS)

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More than 200 Commonwealth Games Athletes Seek Asylum in Australia and 50 Go Missing

More than 200 Commonwealth Games athletes and officials remain in Australia after applying for refugee visas, with another 50 staying in the country illegally.

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More than 200 Commonwealth Games athletes and officials remain in Australia after applying for refugee visas, with another 50 staying in the country illegally.

The figures were revealed by Immigration Department officials to a Senate committee hearing on Monday night, reports Xinhua news agency.

A total of 8,103 athletes, media representatives and officials arrived in Australia on temporary visas for the Gold Coast event which concluded on April 15, with 7,848 returning home after their stay expired last week, meaning 255 stayed in the country.

Of those who have remained in Australia, 205 were legally in the community on bridging visas as they await approval to stay on a permanent basis. Border Force officials have commenced a nationwide search for the other 50 who have overstayed their visas.

The majority of foreigners seeking asylum in Australia were from war-torn African nations such as Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria. However some members of the Indian and Pakistani teams have also remained in Australia.

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Australia’s Department of Home Affairs deputy secretary, Malisa Golightly, told parliament on Monday night that most of the remaining participants “have applied for protection visas”.

“Anybody that is onshore can apply for protection legally once they are here, but of course then they are considered against … the criteria for that visa,” she said.

The temporary protection visas allow the Commonwealth Games participants to stay in Australia for up to three years and receive welfare benefits.

Peter Dutton, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister, said he was disappointed with the number of people who have stayed illegally as they had been welcomed to Australia “in good faith”.

“Australians hate being taken for a ride by freeloaders,” Dutton told Newscorp Australia on Monday night.

Also Read:Indians Among Top Asylum Seekers in the World: International Migration Outlook 2017 Report

“Australia is now obliged under international law to consider these protection visa applications.”

In comparison, only 45 people extended their visas or sought asylum in Australia after the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

–IANS