From IGA’s filling boy to City Councillor: A story of hard work and resilience of Indian migrant Keyur Kamdar

I won the election fair and square with 60% votes, people of Ranford Ward trusted me and now I will do my part with honesty and humility.

I am Keyur Kamdar, one of Australia’s millions of migrants who come to this lucky land with not much in their pockets but a lot of dreams in their hearts and resilience in their minds.

Recently, I have been elected Councillor for ‘Ranford ward’ of the City of Armdale in Perth, Western Australia.

However, I am not a politician, I am a community member of this beautiful place Armdale that I call home and want to positively contribute to it.

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My Australian story started in the year 2007 when I landed at Perth airport with my wife who was pursuing her Master of Finance and Banking with Edith Cowen University.

Like most international student families despite having a couple of years of experience in our respective work areas we started from the very bottom of the Australian workforce.

Councillor Keyur Kamdar, Ranford Ward, City of Armdale: Picture Source: Supplied
Councillor Keyur Kamdar, Ranford Ward, City of Armdale: Picture Source: Supplied

Still remember those days when I used to work as IGA’s filling job in the early mornings, a Fuel station operator on weekends, and a warehouse account administrator three days a week just to survive. It used to be 5 am to 8 am at IGA, a couple of hours sleep, and warehouse job from 12-6 pm on weekdays and Fuel station on weekends.

Believe me, those struggles shaped me as a person and changed my views about success.

With some local experience, things got a little better after three years and I found myself in Telstra call center which gave me a proper experience of working in a big team and Australian workplace policies and procedures.

By now my wife graduated and started working in a Bank.
That evening when she showed me the email of her appointment in the Bank we both cried and laughed at the same time, recalled each and every instance of not doing things that we wanted to do but couldn’t do because of limited resources.

Both of us promised ourselves we will help and support anyone who we can like a lot of people not only of Indian origin but from different backgrounds told us they are there right behind us if we need.

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My Indian work experience paid off as I was appointed Trade officer at Perth Consulate General of India, where my job was to liaison between Western Australian trade agency and Government of India bodies. I worked at Perth Council for two years 2012- 14 but then trader inside wanted to desperately come out.

I started my construction hardware supply business with the name “Steelco Exim.” It was a boom time for Indian Australian Diaspora so I ventured into Bollywood Movie distribution and Event management. Every weekend seemed like a big Bollywood party, just happy days.

But, life just teaches you when you think, you know all.

The downturn came and it really hit hard in Perth’s real estate market. I took a decision to close ‘Steelco Exim,” and joined Service Australia as a consultant.

Throughout the pandemic, I worked at Center link, listening to hundreds of stories from people whose lives were turned upside down because of a sudden loss of jobs and lockdowns. I am telling you this because at times we don’t realise the importance of what we have. Our family, our friends, and their smiling faces should be our priority no matter what.

Oh, I forgot to tell. I and my wife became the proud owner of a house. The Australian dream house, we built this property in Ranford ward of the City of Armdale. It’s a newly developed area with a lot of residents from CALD communities.

In the last six-year or so I have joined a few community organisations as a volunteer. We work towards the social and cultural understanding and acceptance of CALD communities in Perth. With Cancer Council, I raise awareness and help improve the participation of multicultural communities.

However, One of the most satisfying is supporting vulnerable people with food and sometimes shelter. Young international students lost jobs and were not getting any government supports at the peak of the COVID pandemic. I participated in the Jain community and Hindu council’s efforts to look after hundreds of international students with fee support and rent support.

I didn’t do this because I am that kindhearted great man, No I learned it from people who helped me. On top of my list are Nitin Koriya and his family who helped and supported my journey in Australia. I would even say, I am here because of him.

You can congratulate me, I have joined a new job with a top ‘Bank’ in September 2021 as the market is somehow limping back to some normality.

My orientation and training were almost three weeks, used to get really late while coming back home because I wanted to familiarise myself with all the necessary tools. But there is a reason I am telling you this.

After just one week of my induction process, a late evening I was paying my council rate and stumbled on the council election page, where a lot of people had written about their dissatisfaction with the current councillor.

And you know what next day was second last day for nomination for council election and no one had filed to stand in front of the incumbent councillor which we were unhappy with.

Well, I telephoned a few friends and local community members, everyone had a reason for not committing their time. It was 11 pm and I went to sleep thinking let me ask my wife about it and then decide.

She leaves early for work so that morning I made her favourite Indian tea with ginger and asked What if I commit myself to council election. She looked at me and said you don’t have to make tea to ask this question. I was like oh god it’s not going to be good, but her reply, “I will look after family affairs you file nomination” gave me the strength to do what I am doing right now.

Last day for nomination, new job, and training process in full-swing, can’t call sick or take leave, what do I do?

I called the returning officer on my way to work, explained to him my situation. He understood and was kind enough to allow me to file my nomination after work.

The office closes at 5 pm so he called me at home, that’s how I filed my nomination after hours.

Whatever you say this is possible because of people like my returning officer who do everything to give a fair go to each Australian without judging their background.

Now another struggle was how will I do my campaign because I had no idea about it. And remember my training was still for two more weeks, so I could only get back home by 6:30 pm.

Started my door-to-door campaign with handwritten – photocopied pamphlets. The weather was really cruel most evenings it was raining and I was standing in my umbrella in someone’s front yard.

We designed and wrote our policies around better council management and High council rate send it for print but surprise surprise, none of the campaign material had my name written on it. But thank god, a friend who is an IT engineer stood the whole night with our printer and got everything the next morning.

We didn’t know that an actual council campaign can be so nasty and vicious. My campaign markee and posters started disappearing overnight. My campaign members started getting abused and targeted. When it went over the nose we complained to the council and returning officer.

I think Ranford ward was watching everything and decided to vote for a fair and honest campaign.

Results were overwhelming as I received 60% of the total votes cast in the election and defeated a candidate who was a councillor for the last two decades.

“When I went to him to shake hands after the results were announced, he simply called me “**********”.

He shouted at me saying, “I will see what you do in four years.”
My answer to him is,

I will fulfil the expectations of better maintenance, bring more amenities like library and recreation centre and work to freeze the council rates.

I won the election fair and square, people of Ranford Ward trusted me and now I will do my part with honesty and humility.

NOTE: Presented as told by Councillor Keyur Kamdar