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Onam Festival 2016

Mr WINGARD ( Mitchell ): I rise today to speak about the South Adelaide Malayalee committee who recently held a community event in my community, which I was fortunate enough to attend. They celebrated Onam 2016, which was a wonderful festival, and it was a delight to be a special guest of theirs and to go along and be a part of this festival in my local community. This is a great event and a great group of people who are doing wonderful things south of Adelaide.

This group has predominantly worked north of Adelaide, but a southern Adelaide group is growing. There were a few hundred people along for the festival and it was a great night. I would like to go into some detail about the people who helped put the night on. First, there was a great group of people, including Jimmy Joseph, who was on the finance committee and gave the welcome speech on the night. Father Manu also spoke, as did Mr Suresh Nair, and Shiju Sebastian Chembotty gave the vote of thanks at the end of the night. Nijo Joy was also a coordinator of the event. A number of other people were involved in putting on this festival, and the event was a great success.

I will talk a little bit about Onam and explain to the house what it is all about. It is an ancient festival that has survived into modern times. It is celebrated in Kerala, in South India, on the south-western coast, and it is a beautiful part of the world. The festival of Onam commemorates Vamana avatara of Vishnu and celebrates the subsequent homecoming of the mythical king, Mahabali.

The king actually arrived the night after we had the official ceremonies, where I was fortunate enough to light the lamp, which was a great honour. King Mahabali got up on the stage and spoke, and he was revered by all who were present. It was great to see him and it was a fantastic occasion. The celebrations for this festival begin within a fortnight of the Malayalam new year and go for 10 days. All over the state of Kerala there are festive rituals, traditional cuisine, dance and music to mark the harvest festival.

The migrant community in South Australia in particular has been very keen to continue this culture and this tradition in our local area. I mentioned the lighting of the lamp, which was fantastic. They also performed a number of dances, including a women's dance that was performed in a circle around the lamp. It was explained to me that they celebrate this festival with a floral display on the carpets, known as a pookkalam, and different houses often decorate their carpets with these quite ornate and spectacular floral arrangements.

I mentioned the dancing, which was fantastic. To be there, to witness it and to see the community celebrate, was absolutely outstanding. There were young people and older people as well. I mentioned the women's dance, but to see the kids in particular get up on stage and celebrate and dance was very exciting for all who were there. I was truly blessed to see the smiles on the young children's faces. This community has made sure that their culture is being transferred through the generations in Adelaide.

I must say that the member for Fisher was also there enjoying the festivities and celebrations, and it was wonderful to be there with her, but she did miss the Onam sadya, the feast which I stayed for afterwards—and it was a wonderful feast. The food from the southern part of India is predominantly vegetarian; in fact, all the dishes served up were vegetarian. There were some beautiful banana and coconut dishes, and they use lentils particularly well. It was amazing, the way it was laid out. Traditionally, it is laid out on a big banana leaf, but we enjoyed it on a plastic banana, to symbolise the banana leaf.

There were a number of chefs—I think six chefs, in fact—who spent quite a long time preparing these beautiful meals. It was laid out and served on the imitation banana leaf. There were 26 dishes, if you can believe it, so we got to feast on these 26 dishes and they were absolutely sensational. The only one I skipped was the very, very hot chilli. I was advised to maybe give that one a pass. The food was delicious, and I must commend the chefs who took part in this. To trial the 26 dishes was absolutely outstanding.

Again, I would like to congratulate the South Adelaide Malayalee Community for putting on the Onam festival and, in particular, Nithin Mathai, who invited me along and got me there. Finally, this is also a great opportunity for me to acknowledge Ms Diya Justin, who was presented with a wonderful award for the great work she does in her community. I commend everyone involved.

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