Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2023-2024
House of Representatives, 31 May 2023
I'd like to acknowledge the Swaminarayan Sanstha organisation, BAPS, the Hindu sociospiritual organisation affiliated in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. BAPS strives to care for the world by caring for societies, families and individuals. BAPS has millions of followers around the world. During his visit to Australia in 2018, the current spiritual leader of BAPS, Mahant Swami Maharaj, shared his vision that, as he put it, 'The capital of Australia will put up a temple to match the capital.'
BAPS is now in the process of building a Hindu mandir, a temple, and community centre in the ACT, in Taylor, in my electorate. Construction for the temple began in April 2022 and is set to be completed in August this year. I was pleased to visit the construction of the temple last week and to see the important work that is being done. The aspiration of the community is to create not just a place of worship but also a place for Canberrans to come together and celebrate Canberra's diversity. Ours is a city where the National Multicultural Festival is our largest festival and where Canberrans acknowledge the benefits of ethnic and religious diversity.
The former spiritual leader of BAPS, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, lived by the ethos 'In the joy of others lies our own'. Taking his inspiration, BAPS volunteers engage in regular blood donation drives, raising funds for charitable organisations like the Canberra Hospital Foundation, providing hot meals and food packs through the COVID-19 crisis, especially to international students, and participating in clean-up days and tree plantation drives. They've also been involved in promoting peace and harmony through an interfaith forum for the Royal Canberra Show and Gungahlin community event, holding weekly assemblies and celebrating Hindu festivals at various locations. They're now in the Ngunnawal Primary School, for when their new temple opens they will be moving there.
The principle of volunteering is important to BAPS volunteers and, indeed, the kids who attend the temple have been given a goal to raise $26,000, including by selling cookies, making handmade craft items and through tin collections. I want to thank, in particular, those who showed me around the temple site: Vivek Brahmbhatt, Kunai Patel, Harshita Kakkad, Drashti Patel and Parag Shah. I really appreciated their generosity and the time that they took to tell me about the temple and the role that they hope it will play.