Four Indian-origin women shine in Australia Day 2023 Honours List

“It is encouraging to see an increase in diversity in the Order of Australia."

By Amit Sarwal and Jitarth Jai Bharadwaj

Governor-General David John Hurley, AC, DSC, FTSE, today announced 2023 Australia Day Honours and Awards for 1047 Australians. This includes awards in the Order of Australia (General and Military Divisions), meritorious awards and recognition for distinguished and conspicuous service.

In addition to the 736 recipients of awards in the General Division of the Order of Australia (6 AC, 47 AO, 177 AM and 506 OAM), today’s Honours list includes:

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  • 30 recipients of awards in the Military Division of the Order of Australia (2 AO, 17 AM and 11 OAM)
  • 217 Meritorious awards
  • 64 Distinguished and Conspicuous awards
Image: Governor-General David John Hurley (Source: Wikipedia)

On this occasion, the Governor-General Hurley said:

“Congratulations to the outstanding Australians recognised in today’s Honours List. The recipients have had a significant impact at the local, national and international level and are, quite simply, inspiring.”

He added:

“They go above and beyond, are from all over the country, and contribute every day in every way imaginable. These are the people who see us through good times and bad. They’re the first to show up and the last to leave. They’re almost always humble to a fault but I urge recipients, for today, to put aside that humility – it’s important they know how much they are valued.”

There are 736 awards in the General Division of the Order of Australia, with 48 per cent for women and 45 per cent for service to local communities. With 354 awards, this is the highest percentage of female Order of Australia recipients in an honours list since the introduction of the Australian honours system in 1975. 

The Governor-General has prioritised ensuring the Order reflects the diversity of our community. He observed:

“It is encouraging to see an increase in diversity in the Order of Australia. Each recipient has something in common – someone nominated them. The Order belongs to each of us and we each have a part to play. The only way a person can be recognised is for someone to nominate them.”

Mrs Narmatha RAVICHANDHIRA has been awarded OAM of the Order of Australia in the General Divison for service to the arts in music and dance.

Mrs Narmatha RAVICHANDHIRA (Image: Supplied)

Guru Srimathi Narmatha Ravichandhira is the Founder and Artistic Director of Bharatha Choodamani Australia, School of Indian Classical Dance and Sruthi-Laya Kendra (Australia), School of Indian Classical Music; Co-Artistic Director, Academy of Indian Music and Cultural Studies Australia; and Victorian Co-Coordinator, Melbourne Chapter, Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth (Spic Macay).

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For Mrs Ravichandhira it is the achievements and success stories of cross-cultural communities and alumni who have benefited from her teaching and mentoring that motivate her. She says:

“It gives me immense pride and happiness to undertake more compositional and choreographic work. On each occasion, it is indeed a very proud and humbling experience not only for me but also to see audiences appreciate my work.”

After migrating to Australia in 1992, she has successfully reached beyond the Indian community to coach several students from their inception to presenting a full-length debut recital. Mrs Ravichandhira says that she takes it as a challenge to coach, develop and raise the profiles globally of second and third-generation Australians who are predominantly new to music and dance.   

She is excited and extremely delighted to be recognised by an Order of Australia honour. 

“It is a great honour and privilege. I would especially like to thank my parents, my family members, my esteemed gurus (teachers) and associates who have helped and guided me. And to those who thought my contribution is worthy – thank you too!”

Mrs Ravichandhira is particularly proud of developing and promoting new music and dance repertoire in Australia and NZ─both in performing arts and in research, through her expertise in carnatic vocal, carnatic violin and bharatanatyam (South Indian classical dance). She has performed at prominent venues in Srilanka, India, UK, France, NZ and Australia, including the Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne Concert Hall and music departments of Monash University and the University of Tasmania.

Ms Mitu BHOWMICK LANGE has been awarded AM in General Divison of the Order of Australia for significant service to the performing arts through film.

Mitu BHOWMICK LANGE (Image: Supplied)

Ms Mitu Bhowmick Lange is the Founder and Director of Mind Blowing Films and Director of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. Since 2018, she is also a board member of Film Victoria. She has produced and introduced several Indian film productions to Australia such as Salaam Namaste, Chak De India, Bachna Aye Haseeno, Main Aurr Mrs Khanna, Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic, and Love Aaj kal to name just a few. She is the only film distributor in Australia to have won the “Highest Grossing Foreign Film Award” four times in the last 13 years at the Australian International Movie Convention.

In 2023, Ms Bhowmick Lange was among the three speakers in Australia invited to speak at the 17th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas which is the flagship event by the Government of India celebrating the contribution of the overseas Indian community. She was invited to speak on: Harnessing the potential of diaspora entrepreneurs particularly women towards an inclusive approach to nation building, chaired by the Indian Minister of Finance, Nirmala Sitharaman.

Dr Sadhana MAHAJANI has been awarded AM in General Divison of the Order of Australia for significant service to aged care, and to community health.

Dr Sadhana Mahajani (Source: cotant.org.au)

Dr Sadhana Mahajani, popularly known to many as Dr M, retired in 2011 after 38 years of working as a doctor in the Northern Territory, most recently as a geriatrician. She worked out of Royal Darwin Hospital, in the jail as a medical officer, and in community health centres right around the Territory. She has devoted considerable energy and time to the care of the elderly, particularly in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia. In 2013, Dr Mahajani was awarded the Senior Australian of the Year, Northern Territory.

Dr Shailja CHATURVEDI has been awarded OAM of the Order of Australia in the General Division for service to medicine, and to the community.

Dr Shailja CHATURVEDI (Source: Supplied)

Dr Shailja Chaturvedi founded the first private psychiatric practice in Penrith in 1982 and at present is the Founder of ChildCan Cancer Foundation (India). She is a past President of the Australian Indian Medical Graduate Association (AIMGA) and has also served as a part-time member of the New South Wales (NSW) Mental Health Review Tribunal for well over 25 years, until 2016.

As an Executive Committee Member of the Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO), and through her involvement in the educational activities of undergraduates and local general practitioners, Dr Chaturvedi continues to contribute to her profession. She is also the author of Reflections of a Psychiatrist (2021) and Raising a Child (2019).

This list also includes 77 Australians recognised for their contribution in support of Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These individuals will also be included in an ongoing and permanent COVID-19 Honour roll.

Recipients announced in the list will be invested with their awards in the coming months, either by the Governor-General at Government House in Canberra, or by the State Governors or Administrator of the Northern Territory, where COVID–19 restrictions allow.