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Four Indian-Australians recognised with highest honours on Australia Day

These include well-known academic Prof. Kuntatal Lahiri-Dutt (AO), former Australian High Commissioner to India Harinder Kaur Sidhu (AM), specialist surgeon and professor of surgery late Dr Sachint Kumar Lal (OAM), and paediatric gastroenterologist Dr Ramananda Kamath (OAM).

Four Indian-Australians have been regnised in the 2024 Australia Day Honours List.

These include well-known academic Prof. Kuntatal Lahiri-Dutt (AO), former Australian High Commissioner to India Harinder Kaur Sidhu (AM), specialist surgeon and professor of surgery late Dr Sachint Kumar Lal (OAM), and paediatric gastroenterologist Dr Ramananda Kamath (OAM).

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Prof. Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt has been awarded with the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the General Division.

She has been recognised for distinguished service to natural resource management research and innovation, to gender equality, and to tertiary education.

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Prof. Lahiri-Dutt works at the Australian National University (ANU) in Cnaberra. Her research is dedicated to the study of livelihoods and natural resource management, with focus on resource-dependent people, the conflicts arising out of contested rights, and community struggles to reclaim these rights.

Through her research, she has contributed to reframing the debates around informal, artisanal and small-scale (ASM) extractive practices of mineral-dependent communities of the Global South by bringing the moral economy of resource extractive livelihoods to the forefront.

Currently, Prof. Lahiri-Dutt is researching how coal dependent communities in India can hope to get justice from energy transition. She has also studied how water use practices of middle class, urban households are changing, and how feminists chart new ways of thinking about water as a resource.

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Dr Sachint Lal has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

He has been recognised for his service to tertiary education and the community.

Dr Lal was born and raised in Patna, Bihar, and was ranked 22nd in the state in matriculation examination. He completed his MBBS in 1959 and went on to obtain a Master of Surgery in 1965. After graduating, Dr Lal moved to the United Kingdom in 1968 to achieve the prestigious Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1973.

In 1977, Dr Lal and his family relocated to Australia. He was the founder of Hawkesbury Clinical School at the University of Notre Dame and also the head of the school between 2008 and 2022.

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Dr Lal was also an active Rotarian for many years, serving as the President of the Penrith Valley Rotary Club between 1989 to 1990. In 1993, he was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS).

Dr Lal passed away on 7 October 2023 from complications of leukaemia. He was 88 years old.

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Dr Ramananda Kamathhas been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

He has been recognised for services to paediatric gastroenterology.

87-year-old Dr Kamath set-up the first department of paediatric gastroenterology in Australia at the Children’s Hospital Camperdown (now known as Westmead Children’s Hospital). In the 1970s, he also performed the earliest liver transplants in children in Australia.

Dr Kamath, a Konkani speaker, finished his MBBS at Madras University, and did an MD and DCH (Diploma in Child Health) at the prestigious CMC Vellore. After working in London and Malaysia, he moved to Australia with his Malaysian-born Indian-origin wife. He retired in 2003.

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Harinder Kaur Sidhu has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

She has been recognised for her contributions to public administration and foreign affairs.

Ms Sidhu, who was born in Singapore to parents of Indian heritage, came to Australia when she was 10. She later studied economics and law at the University of Sydney.

Ms Sidhu was appointed as Australian High Commissioner to India in 2016 and later for New Zealand on 31 March 2022. She joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) directly after graduating and is a well-known senior career officer. She was a senior public servant at the heart of two big public policy challenges: the first involved establishing Australia’s counter-terrorism frameworks in the aftermath of 9/11; the second was designing and delivering a policy solution to climate change.

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