The Balinese community living in Melbourne, Australia, is raising funds to build a Hindu temple in the city where they have established a banjar (customary hamlet) with around 300 members.
At an estimated cost of Rp 2 billion (US$166,773), the community is appealing to local businesses in Bali to help raise funds to build a place where they can hold gatherings and activities to celebrate Balinese art and culture.
Nyoman Dwija Putra, head of banjar Mahindra Bali, said that since the banjar had been established as a non-profit organization in 1997, its members had yet to be able to afford to build a temple and balai bajar (community hall). All their activities are now centered at the Indonesian Consulate General’s office in Melbourne.
“We really hope that one day we can have a dedicated place for our activities. We want to build a temple here,” Dwija told Bali Daily recently.
He also said that building a hall and a temple was necessary to facilitate the many Balinese people marrying Australians.
“We believe it would play an important role as a place to celebrate Balinese art and culture. Many of the Balinese living here are in mixed marriages. Their children often miss out on their Balinese heritage,” he explained.
Members of Melbourne’s Balinese community regularly travel back to Bali and are now approaching local companies to support the project, offering to promote their businesses to Melbournians in exchange.
“We expect them to sponsor us. We still hope to have the temple. If no government aid or private companies in Bali come to help us, we will continue find other ways to raise the funds,” said Dwija.
Mahindra is short for Masyarakat Hindu Dharma (Hindu Dharma community) and is a special banjar where Balinese who come to Australia can gather in close kinship. The community meets regularly and has a Facebook account to reach out to members living outside the city.
The idea to establish the community started at a gathering of Balinese people living in Melbourne. With the help of a lawyer, they registered with the Education and Culture Department of Australia and set up as a non-profit organization.
After a long process, the local authority finally legalized the organization with the name Banjar Mahindra Bali.
“It’s a community that introduces Balinese arts and culture to the people and the government of Australia. Although Bali is well-known to many Australians, we think it’s important to familiarize them with our culture, so that the Balinese government doesn’t have to come here and spend a lot of money [to introduce Balinese culture],” Dwija explained.
The funds needed to run the organization’s activities are collected from members through an annual fee of A$25 (US$23,60). The Indonesian Consulate General also makes donations when the organization holds art performances.
The Bali administration once donated a gamelan set (traditional Balinese musical instrument), which is now kept at the consulate general’s office because the organization has nowhere safe to keep it.
At the office, members of Mahindra Bali are also allowed to hold mass prayers once every six months and to practice playing traditional musical instruments every Saturday, provided no other event is scheduled for that space.
“All we need is a special place, like a hall and a temple. The place could be rented out or commercialized, so we hope that there will be sponsors or investors interested in cooperating with us,” Dwija said.
So far, progress remains sluggish. Of the estimated Rp 2 billion needed, only Rp 120 million has been collected from the annual membership fees and a number of art performances.
The organization has gone to a lot of effort to ask for support from the governments of Bali and Australia, as well as some private companies, but has yet to see any significant result.
They have also been visited several times by Indonesian officials, including a minister, a regent and a number of Bali’s legislative council members, who promised funding to help realize the planned temple and community hall.
“They once said they would donate around Rp 5 billion. We prepared everything we needed, like looking for a proper location. However, we have never heard back from them until now,” Dwija said.
The community would welcome donations from any private company in Bali, or any other interested parties, he said.