Najma Habeeb

PM Modi
Author Centre for Australia-India Relations
Date 13 July 23

A highlight of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Australia was the vibrant community event at Qudos Bank Arena where Prime Minister Albanese announced the launch of the Centre and that the Centre would be headquartered in Parramatta. Parramatta is the demographic heart of Sydney, a location with strong potential for entrepreneurship and innovation, while being home to one of Australia’s largest Indian communities. The Centre will also maintain a presence in the Sydney CBD.

The day after the Centre was launched, it hosted its first major event – a briefing for CEOs to prepare them for a roundtable with the Indian Prime Minister. The Centre brought together senior executives to hear from Tim Thomas, as well as Chief Negotiator of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, Frances Lisson PSM and the outgoing Australian High Commissioner to India the Hon Barry O’Farrell AO.

The briefing demonstrated the Centre’s convening role, explored the breadth of opportunity for Australian business and our comparative advantages.

“Australia has the natural resources, critical minerals, premium food products, education, research and technical capabilities which are important to India, while India has the manufacturing scale, strong domestic demand, a growing middle class and technological and digital capacity at scale which are important to Australia.

The Centre has been designed as a convening platform to facilitate cross- government, industry and education expertise to build India know-how and capability.”

PM Modi and Centre Chair Swati Dave

The Centre will serve as a national centre of gravity for the relationship. Since starting in his role in May 2023, Tim has travelled to Perth, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane to meet government, education, community, cultural and business stakeholders. Outreach to other states and regions is being planned.

“I have been so impressed by the breadth of engagement across states, particularly in tertiary sector collaboration with India. Education is at the core of the Centre’s work; it crosses all our streams of work and is integral in not only growing understanding between Australia and India but also in the realisation of economic opportunities”.

On 26 June, Tim Thomas addressed the Australia India Chamber of Commerce 2023 Conference in Perth, delivering his first public keynote.

“Australian business has more opportunity than ever before with India, and we are ready to use our unique convening power to seize the opportunities. “

Business roundtable

Centre Chair Swati Dave and CEO Tim Thomas attended an Australia India Business Council event on 27 June in Perth, and both spoke about the many strengths Indian Australian entrepreneurs and corporate leaders bring to the bilateral relationship.

Most recently, Centre CEO Tim Thomas made a two-day visit to Queensland to meet with business and education stakeholders.

Centre CEO Tim Thomas

The Centre has helped convene three Indian diaspora business roundtables with the Foreign Minister across the country – in Parramatta, Melbourne and Perth – discussing new approaches to engaging with India, the varied risk appetites that SMEs bring and how Australia can work with India to capture global market opportunities.

“Our Indian diaspora community are a rich source of dynamism and enterprise. Many are leading SMEs with a unique perspective on doing business with India. There is promising work the Centre can do in supporting diaspora entrepreneurs and business leaders in contributing to our economic relationship.”

Diaspora roundtable

In launching the Centre, the Prime Minister announced the Centre’s Advisory Board, which will shape the Centre’s work and provide advice on opportunities for further partnership and collaboration with India.

On 21 June, the Centre’s Advisory Board came together for its first meeting in Canberra. The day included interactions with the Foreign Minister, DFAT Secretary, a range of senior officials and was capped off with an interaction with the Parliamentary Friends of India at Parliament House.

“The diversity of the Board’s experience will help create a textured, resilient Centre with expertise across culture, sports diplomacy, diaspora focused engagement, education and business.”

Advisory Board

The Foreign Minister announced the six recipients of the inaugural Maitri Cultural Partnerships grants on 27 June. The grant recipients represent a broad range of creative sectors, from physical theatre to textile design. We look forward to working closely with each of the grant recipients over the coming months as they bring their projects to life.

“The Maitri Cultural Partnerships grants are a key element of the Centre for Australia-India Relations' work to deepen understanding and connections between Australia and India. Strong cultural ties will increasingly be a feature of our strong relations.

The Centre is pleased to support these projects to bring fresh and innovative perspectives to the Australia-India relationship and to foster creativity in our own multicultural ecosystem.”

The first two months have seen a nation-wide whirl of activity and allowed the Centre to set down solid foundations. We’re looking forward to seeing what’s in store for the Centre in coming months.