Marie Pietersz

Melbourne prays for Sri Lankan victims Contributed
Marie Pieterszby: Marie Pietersz, Melbourne

With around 50 percent of Australian-born Sri Lankans living in Melbourne, it is no wonder that there were many multi-faith vigils and prayers held in many parts of Melbourne in the days following the Easter Sunday bombings which took place in Sri Lanka on 21st April 2019. It left two Australians of Sri Lankan heritage among the dead, along with many overseas tourists and a death toll on the rise numbering hundreds.

Once such special memorial service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, on Sunday 28th April, arranged by the Consulate General of Sri Lanka, Mr Prasanna Gamage, in association with the Very Rev. Dr. Andreas Loewe, Dean of Melbourne. 

Hundreds of people gathered in Federation Square holding posters of support and then on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, whilst inside the Cathedral over 1000 Sri Lankans, Australians and other nationals gathered to light candles and pray for those who were killed and injured at places of worship and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.

Among the dignitaries who attended the memorial service were:

Her Excellency, Hon. Linda Dessau, AC, the Governor of Victoria and spouse Judge Anthony Howard

Hon. James Merlino, Acting Premier of Victoria

Hon. Michael O’Brien, MP, Leader of the State Opposition

Parliamentarians representing almost all political parties both at Federal and State level, including Senator Penny Wong representing the Federal Opposition.

In addition, senior Victorian officials attending included:

Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne

members of the Consular corps

Local Government Councillors.

Her Excellency, Hon. Linda Dessau, delivered the second lesson while The Very Rev. Dr. Loewe conducted the proceedings of the service.

Clergy representing all four main religions of Sri Lanka lit candles in memory of the victims.

The Hon. James Merlino, MP and Actg. Premier conveyed condolences on behalf of the State Government.

Senator Penny Wong, Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and Councillor Beverly Pinder-Mortimer also delivered peace messages.

Mr. Prasanna Gamage, Consul General of Sri Lanka, in his peace message highlighted the importance of non-violence and love in the teachings of all religions.

Major edifices in Melbourne were lit up in an act of solidarity and sign of Victoria’s grief for the people of Sri Lanka on Monday 22nd and Tuesday 23rd April.



Her Excellency the Hon. Linda Dessau , Governor of Victoria
Her Excellency the Hon. Linda Dessau , Governor of Victoria

Mr. Prasanna Gamage, Consul General
Mr. Prasanna Gamage, Consul General

St. Pauls
St. Pauls

Very Rev. Dr. Andreas Loewe, Dean of Melbourne of the St. Paul's Cathedral
Very Rev. Dr. Andreas Loewe, Dean of Melbourne of the St. Paul’s Cathedral

With clergy of all religions
With clergy of all religions

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Marie PieterszStory by Marie Pietersz, Melbourne



MasterChef - Dee Williams

MasterChef Judge Matt Preston’s reaction to Dee’s dish of Sri Lankan chicken curry, dhal and coconut sambol, is about to take on a life of its own, when Dee launches her YouTube channel Dee-licious on Wednesday, 8 May. Dee’s short but very happy time on MasterChef has had a very positive experience on her, so I will follow this up in my personal and candid chat with her.

Dee Williams, 37, is the first Sri Lankan female MasterChef contestant who made it into top 24 contestants on season 11, 2019. Dee is from Kandy, Sri Lanka. The oldest of four children, Dee’s family lived on a tea plantation and in 2007 she packed up and moved to Australia to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management at Holmesglen, graduating in 2011 and now works casually as an Office Manager.

Arriving in Australia, Dee says she was inspired by the variety of cuisines and cooking cultures on offer, and cites her strengths in the kitchen as Asian and Sri Lankan, a confident allrounder in Malaysian, Thai and Singaporean flavours.

She lives at home with her husband Michael who she married in 2012, and young brother, Ebenezer, who lives with the couple in Melbourne’s east.

Why did you enter the MC competition?

I came to Australia to do a degree in Hotel Management. Back in Sri Lanka I was in a boarding school and was not exposed to a lot of cooking experiences, only my mum’s, from whom I learnt about Sri Lankan and South Indian cuisine, but when I came to Australia, it opened up a different world – one that exposed me to a whole new world of food, given Melbourne is famous for its international cuisine.

Who or what inspired you to enter to be a contestant on MasterChef?

I am a big fan of MasterChef and I used to try and practise the MasterChef dishes at home, which gave me confidence in my ability to turn out dishes that I hadn’t experience in before, so I said to myself, “I can do it. I can give MasterChef a go,” and this idea was born in me and I thought I must try to give this lifetime opportunity a go. 

I was also inspired by Sri Lankan contestant Kumar Pereira on Series 3 who made it to the top twelve, and I like Peter Kuruvita’s culturally inspired cooking and his achievements.

What went wrong when you were eliminated on the “challenge” last night (6 May)?

Making the perfect Bombe Alaska was a tough challenge and I crumbled under pressure. I had to take ten minutes off the set to collect my thoughts, before I came back, amidst shouts of encouragement from my fellow contestants, to continue with the task of turning out a Bombe Alaska as close as possible to the master sample of this old favourite we had to copy. I thought, it took me ten years to get to cook in the MasterChef kitchen and I am not going to give up now.

My sorbet and ice cream measurements didn’t come together very well and as a result it didn’t have the right texture and flavour and the ice cream was not set.

What are your plans for the future?

I have plans to open up a cooking school for Sri Lankan cuisine as well as other cuisines. If I had won MasterChef, it would have been easier to launch this plan, but for now my challenge is to launch my YouTube channel which will provide viewers with cooking techniques, tips and product reviews, to start.

I work casual hours now in my day job, so I could still manage to do this after hours and see how I go and perhaps I will one day be doing this full time when my business grows.

What was your experience on MasterChef like?

It gave me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – twenty-four contestants, sharing the same dream, living together, getting to know each other, supporting each other, and learning different techniques from each other and from the judges in their master classes.

Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan love the flavours of Asia and George Columbaris has spent some time enjoying enormous popularity as a guest chef and experiencing the flavours of Sri Lanka, on location.

The judges are open-minded and fair with their comments on and off the show and you grow as a person and gain more confidence to try new things out and not be scared to put new ideas and suggestions forward.

Would you recommend MasterChef to other young Australians or migrant Australians? What advice would you give them?

Definitely. If you have a passion for food, push yourself to pursue it. There are a lot of rounds of pressure-testing and group challenges to get through before you get to be one of the twenty-four contestants. I failed in my first attempt to get on, but I did not give up and tried again and was successful to get in on Series 11.

If you have a dream you have to pursue it. If you have the opportunity to get on to MasterChef, take it and move forward.  

It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you have to fulfil your dream.

Is there room for you in the YouTube cooking space?  What is going to make your channel different?

I have also been slowly building my profile on social media and have other plans to bring my own spice range on the market, perhaps a recipe book of Sri Lankan cooking secrets, which I know there is an audience out there for, and I am going to take some time to see what other opportunities there are in this space.

What will you be leaving behind as your “signature” dish on MasterChef?

The judges enjoyed my (mum’s) chicken curry, but my (mum’s) crab curry is the one they will remember for a long time. I was instantly awarded the “white” apron for the crab curry, which was a proud moment for me. It was as close as possible to my mum’s curry and, luckily, I was able to get all the ingredients I needed in the MasterChef kitchen, so I didn’t need to change it much – just the dark palm sugar, I guess, was the secret ingredient.

What would you like for MasterChef in the future?

I would like to see a MasterChef competition start up in Sri Lanka and I would love to be a guest judge. I think Sri Lanka is ready for MasterChef and I would love to see it happen.

Thank you, Dee, for sharing your MasterChef story with me. Your beautiful smile and humble personality made you a lot of fans in the Sri Lankan community. Congratulations on your qualification to cook in the MasterChef kitchen. You made us all proud of you.

Well done and good luck with the next chapter of your culinary journey, which we look forward to hearing about.





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Rugby: HSBC/Cathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019 – Photos and write up by Marie Pietersz (Melbourne)

It’s that time of the year again for Rugby Week in Hong Kong when rugby fans all over the world converge on Hong Kong to play (and party) at the HSBC/Cathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019. Hong Kong had much to live up to its self-anointed claim as Asia’s and put on wow with its high quality facilities.

The 40,000 capacity Hong Kong Stadium was sold out with supporters of 28 teams vying for the coveted title. Australians were there in their thousands, but apart from Hong Kong supporters, Fiji had the largest and loudest contingent. The competition was fast and furious, with quick changeovers and entertainment to boot. Look-alike entertainers performed the music of Queen, Mick Jagger, the Beatles, Amy Winehouse and more. Outrageous and innovative dress–ups provided an entertaining and convivial atmosphere A heavy Police and security presence were there to ensure that the event remained incident free. Food and drink, conveniences and other facilities were in ample supply and public transport provided very easy access to and from the stadium. Australia did not make it into the finals, winning from Portugal, but losing losing to Scotland in the final qualifiers.

Other surprise wins that kept the crowd elated and engaged were USA over South Africa, Argentina over South Africa, Samoa over England and France over New Zealand. Other event organisers could well take a leaf out of the Hong Kong Rugby Union book for yet another highly successful and enjoyable event, albeit they have many years experience of doing it under their belt. The 2019 Hong Kong Rugby Sevens gave rugby fans an entertaining and highly skilled brand of rugby. All teams played to nail-biting finishes, using long and fast runs, ducking and weaving tactics, safe passing down the lines with few knock-ons and converting tries from difficult angles.

Fast and furious play kept fans on the edges of their seats watching the eliminations at the qualifying rounds. A few upset results from the underdog teams and the final scoreboard looked like this: Shield trophy final winner Spain 19 to Wales 14, Bowl trophy winner Scotland 24 to Japan 24, Plate trophy winner Argentine 21 to NZ 14, Bronze medal winner USA 22 to Samoa 10, and the Cup winner Fiji 21 to France 7.

Rugby Week in Hing Kong ended on a very high and successful note, making good Hong Kong slogans which boldly emblazen the message, Nobody does Rugby Sevens better than Hong Kong. With fans hungry for more of the same, it looks like tickets to the rest of the Series games in other world destinations will be filling up fast.

Marie Pietersz, Melbourne, reporting from Hong Kong Stadium in company with former Ceylon rugby scrum-half Randy Pietersz and son Sean.

For travel packages to upcoming Seven Series games in other world destinations, contact Candy Penesis Travel Counselors on 0411 148 717.


Click here or on the photos below to view the full album of photos on eLanka Facebook page

Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz

Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz

Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz   Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz Rugby-HSBCCathay Pacific World Series Hong Kong Sevens 2019.- Photos and write up by Marie Pieterz


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Author Corner: Nalini de Sielvie: Thistles in the Wind – An autobiography : Story by Marie Pietersz, Melbourne

Marie Pietersz

Nalini de Sielvie is a Sri Lankan-born Melbourne author whose recent novel Thistles in the Wind has made it on the world stage. Published by Authorhouse (UK) in November 2018, it was displayed at the Tucson Book Fair, Arizona (US) Campus, in March 2019, and is also available on Amazon, online book stores and at Australian libraries.


Thistles in the Wind

Many books have been written and published by Nalini since she arrived in Melbourne more than forty-five years ago, but this autobiography, comprising over a thousand pages, is about her own story in detail and is crammed with stories about life in Sri Lanka and Australia that will make you both laugh and cry. Part 1 ‘The Lotus Island’ is about family history, childhood, teenage years and getting married at eighteen, while Part 2 ‘Southern Stars’ deals with the struggles of settling down in a new country, motherhood, domestic issues, and striving to achieve her goals whilst writing continually.

“Memories sustain us in our autumn years, lighting up the road ahead, and easing the burden of life’s arduous journey. So I begin my travels down memory lane to when it all started, in post-colonial Ceylon,” says Nalini.

There is not much more that can be written about Nalini that hasn’t already been written about this Woman of Substance, suffice to say that this quiet achiever is an amazingly humble human being who has achieved so much in the face of adversity and continues to do so with her indomitable fervour and faith in spite of the challenges she has had to face of domestic disharmony, family rifts and loss, nursing a sick husband through a terminal illness and now confronted with serious health problems.
Nalini de Sielvie

Nalini migrated to Australia in 1972, a newly qualified journalist at age twenty with her husband, and has two sons.

Nalini says, “When I came to Melbourne in 1972, I was terribly homesick and isolated as my whole family was still in Sri Lanka. Only a couple of my husband’s siblings were here.

“Being pregnant and lonely, my thoughts constantly dwelt on my ‘Island home’ and family I had left behind, and so began my nostalgic recollections of my childhood, parents and relatives.

“It was cathartic and assuaged my isolation during many long lonely hours at home awaiting the birth of my first son, while dealing with all the issues new migrants face besides coping with domestic disharmony.”

It was only Nalini’s stoicism, persistence and faith and her development of long-term friendships that made it possible for her to handle the long hours of hard work, the dark side of her life, keeping the home fires burning, raising her sons, holding on to a career that made it possible to survive economically and gradually surviving as a migrant. She also knew she had to find time to follow her dreams of realising her talents and fulfilling her ambitions because she needed this for her inner life and soul.

She holds diplomas in journalism, scriptwriting, commercial art, and pianoforte, and worked for the Commonwealth Government from 1986 to 2005 before changing direction. She currently teaches piano at a local primary school besides painting and writing.

Writers World Queensland, and other publications have published Nalini’s award-winning short stories, articles and poems in several anthologies. She also contributes articles, poems, and short stories to various magazines and local newspapers.

This unusual woman has been able to champion her way through the maze of life’s obstacles by seeing the seriousness of situations and being able to keep her counsel. Her laughter, sadness, grief, regrets, love, they are all there in her writing, the outlet and window to this writer’s soul, her liberation.

Her stories and poems appeared in a recently published anthology, Wild Poppies and in the Society of Women Writers Victoria anthology, Climb the mountain.

In 1995, Nalini was included in the Who’s Who of Australian Writers and is a current member of the Society of Women Writers, Writers Victoria, Australian Writers Guild, Peninsula Arts Society, and was President of Authors Australia Inc (independent publishers).

“Until we are fully grown, we seldom think of childhood,

Like thistles in the wind has blown

All that’s dear swept away for good.

Nor all regrets, our tears and pain,

Make the thistle whole again.”

Nalini de Sielvie has published eight other books to date (fiction, short stories and poems).

Dark Shores-Return to Serendib


Wild Poppies

An Eternal Summer

Is this your Caruso? Biography of Tenor Luigi Campeotto


Edge of Nowhere

Return to Enchantment

An amazing journey! A big life! Thistles in the Wind is her own story, an honest, poignant recollection of her life without the sugar-coating. It is a must read.



(Book price as per seller)

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Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray – Story and pics by Marie Pietersz, Melbourne

Denver (Deno) Keegel, popular identity within Sri Lankan social circles, celebrated his milestone birthday on 15th March at the Grand on Princes in Mulgrave.You could be forgiven for thinking you were at a Collingwood finals dinner or awards night, with the venue elaborately decorated in Collingwood colours and memorabilia and 250 guests dressed in the black and white theme for the occasion requested by birthday boy and ardent Collingwood fan, Denver.

The party kicked off with a grand entrance by Denver dressed in club colours to a rendition of the club song.  Laughter followed roaring applause from guests when spotted with Denver in a sea of black and white, were three of his grandchildren wearing the colours of rival club, Hawthorn, adding to the fun and excitement of the night’s activities to come.

Denver was born in Colombo in 1949 and following his schooling at Carey College, joined the Royal Ceylon Air Force in 1970 at the age of 21. He married the love of his life, Patricia (Patty) Gray in 1975, and migrated to Melbourne in 1976. In Australia he held many top management and key personnel roles in tyre company Goodyear, footwear designer J Robins & Sons Pty Ltd, and aged care specialist Dial an Angel, retiring from full time employment in 2018.

Denver and Patty’s family grew in Australia and continues to grow, with two children, Melissa and Daniel and five grandchildren, Declan, Lucas and Jett (Daniel and Tara) and Joceylon and Jovan (Melissa and Darren Junkeer) and another on the way.

Guests at Denver’s 70th birthday celebrations were entertained by a number of guest singers backed by popular band for the night, Next Generation. Singers included Derrick Junkeer (also compere) and dancers, daughter Melissa, and friends Reg Bartholomeusz and Esric Jackson, not least of all, the birthday boy himself.

Among the other notable items of the night was the sumptuous buffet by Tony and Tania Walles, Collingwood ice carving by Desmond Foulstone, elaborate slide show by brother Travis Keegel (U.K.) and very large screen back-drop designed by Ishan Bahar (Sri Lanka). There was not only one birthday cake, but two large ones, made and decorated in the Collingwood themes by Cake Point.

Speakers for the night included brother Gordon Keegel (all the way from Mill Park, LOL), Indrani Keegel (presiding over grace and thanksgiving), son Daniel, daughter Melissa, and close friends Bertie Ekenaike and Joyce Senn. There was even a special Collingwood chair for Denver to sit in and savour the adulations of the speakers.

In his speech, Denver thanked guests, helpers and entertainers, visiting family from Queensland, and venue management Jude de Silva and staff.  The air was charged with emotion when Denver shared his happily married status and acknowledged his loving and dedicated wife of forty-four years, Patty, and was visibly moved when she presented him with a gift of an airline ticket to Sri Lanka and England to visit his family.

From many accounts, a wonderful and fun time was had by all, who I am sure will join me in congratulating Denver and wishing him a happy and healthy septuagenarian decade. Happy 70th birthday, Denver!.


Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70 hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray


Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray


Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray

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Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka, 2019 –Contributed by Marie Pietersz, Melbourne

Marie PieterszThe 71st anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka was celebrated in Victoria at the Box Hill Town Hall, Box Hill, on 4 February 2019, following the official flag-hoisting ceremony in the Office of the Consulate General in Melbourne. Sri Lankan flags adorned Federation Square.

The celebration commenced with the singing of the national anthem in Sinhala and Tamil and observance of two minutes silence in memory of those who sacrificed their lives for the country. The traditional lighting of the oil lamp was followed by multi-faith religious observances conducted by clergy representing four religions in Sri Lanka to bless the nation and its people.

Among the distinguished guests attending were senior government officials from both sides of Parliament, the Hon Josh Bull MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs, representing the Premier, and the Hon Craig Ondarchie MLC, Member for Northern Metropolitan, who extended the felicitations of the Government and Opposition respectively.

Other dignitaries included Hon. Bruce Atkinson MLC, Member of the Legislative Council of Victoria, Hon. Jason Wood and Hon. Julian Hill, Members of the Parliament of Australia, Victorian politicians, Mayors and City Councillors representing Local Government, Commissioners of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, University academics and members of the Consular corps.

A significant item on the agenda was the felicitation of a group of twelve students with Sri Lankan heritage who achieved high academic excellence in the Victorian Certificate of Education 2018 examination. Senior academics also of Sri Lankan heritage from Universities in Victoria joined the dignitaries and the Consul General for Sri Lanka in felicitating these students.

A highlight of the event was the cultural show of dances performed by young Melburnians with Sri Lankan heritage, depicting the rich cultural heritage of Sri Lanka, to an audience of over six hundred guests.

The celebration was organised by the Office of the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Melbourne with the assistance of the Sri Lankan expatriate community and the State Government of Victoria.

Ref: CG Sri Lanka

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka1

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka2

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka3

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka


Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka

Anniversary of the Independence of Sri Lanka

Marie Pietersz

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Miss South Asia Australia Pageant 2018: Story: Marie Pietersz, Melbourne; Pics: courtesy Hiru Photography

Marie Pietersz

Story: Marie Pietersz, Melbourne
Pics: courtesy Hiru Photography

When VIPs keep attending your events year after year despite their busy schedules, you know they value and are acknowledging your efforts. This is what happens with Dilkie Perera’s Miss Sri Lanka Australia (MSLA) and Miss South Asia Australia (MSAA) Pageants.

Among the number of VIPS who attended this year’s double Pageant held at the Savoy Vibe Hotel in the Melbourne CBD on 16 September were Julian Hill MP, Federal Member for Bruce, stopping by on his way to Canberra, and Inga Peulich MLC, Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, leaving a family party early to attend. VIPs from all countrie represented by participants were also present in a solidarity show of support.

The impressive line-up of other dignitaries included:

Liz Beattie, former Victorian MP
Marianne Lau, Vice Chair ECCV
Kaushalya Vaghela, Advisor to the Victorian Multicultural Minister
Praveen Kumar, Advisor to Peter Khalil, Federal MP
Donald Betts, Former US Senator
W G A Prasanna, Consul General for Sri Lanka in Victoria
Bandu Dissanayake, Former Consul for Sri Lanka in Victoria
Ayesha Bux, Former Trade Consul, Pakistan
Jennifer Yang, Former Mayor, Manningham City Council
Chandra Bamunasinghe, Former Deputy Mayor, Hume City Council

Community Leaders –

Bom Yonzon and Ram Kumar Sheshtra from Nepal  
Aloke and Aakash Kumar from India, and
Molina Asthana and Mustafa Hasan from Bangaldesh.  

Keynote speaker Julian Hill MP compared this Pageant, where all participants are winners and encouraged to value and be proud of their individuality, to some of the other beauty pageants around the world where participants are expected to conform to certain stereotype expectations. In this Pageant, in contrast, participants are not expected to parade in swimwear, rather in traditional, formal and casual wear only.

In its second year, the MSAA Pageant didn’t fail to dazzle and glitter with the vibrant colours of the traditional costumes worn by participants from the six South Asian countries of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The Pageant attracted a large number of interstate contestants from SA, WA, NSW and ATC as well as from the host State, Melbourne. Contestants hailed from many professions including doctors, chartered accountants, financiers, health and legal industry professionals as well as tertiary students, which says a lot for the excellent reputation of the Pageant and Pageant organisers. The Miss Sri Lanka Australia Pageant also included teenagers.

For the second consecutive year the MSAA Pageant was dedicated to promoting awareness of domestic violence. Contestants underwent a mandatory half day training session on the subject conducted by the Dr Manjula O’Conner, Director, Australian Centre for Human Rights and Health.

The highly esteemed judging panel included Ms Reena Koak (Managing Director of Miss India Australia Pageant, from Sydney), Mr Tek Kirant (Head stylist and choreographer of Miss Nepal Oceania Pageant, from Brisbane), Miss Emily Thomas (International Model) and Jay Randeniya (former Mr Sri Lanka Australia winner).

Dilkie is the entrepreneur behind these Pageants, seeing a need for young first, second and even third generation Australians with Sri Lankan and South Asian heritage to have a platform to showcase their inherited cultures through integration and participation in the cultural and community fabric that is the Australian essence, which includes a comprehensive career-enhancing training program with public speaking, networking, community and media exposure, and high end catwalk exposure for a year following participation in the Pageant. Dilkie is ably assisted in her work by daughters Savindhi and Vishni and Consultant Tania Betts and Assistants Nishni and Yashodhi.

Winners in the 2018 MSAA Pageant are:

1. Miss South Asia Australia 2018
Winner Namitha Susan Kurian (India)
1st runner up  Nazanin Hosseini (Afghanistan) from New South Wales
2nd runner up Shajuty Islam (Bangladesh)

2. Mr South Asia Australia 2018
Winner – Nishan Joseph (Sri Lanka)
1st runner up Yath Karun (Sri Lanka)
2nd runner up – Niraj Thakker (India)

3. Mrs South Asia Australia 2018
Winner Tarini Fernando (Sri Lanka)
Runner up Poonam Shetty (India) from Western Australia

4.Ms South Asia Australia 2018
Winner Anmol Sagar (India) 
Runner upZaiba Musa (Pakistan) from South Australia

5. Ms South Asia Australia 2018 
WinnerAnmol Sagar (India) 
Runner upZaiba Musa (Pakistan) from South Australia 


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Colombo No.7 (London Dry Gin) – A TASTE LIKE NO OTHER

Marie PieterszStory and pics: Marie Pietersz, Melbourne

For the second year running, Colombo No.7 Gin was selected by organisers Caroline Childerley, the Gin Queen (Australia) and Olivier and Emile Ward (co-owners, Gin Foundry, UK) to showcase their brand of spirits at the Juniperlooza Melbourne 2018 Gin Festival held at the Meat Market, North Melbourne on 27 and 28 October.

Juniperlooza (Juniper = berry, the main ingredient in Gin, and Looza = festival or celebration) Melbourne made its debut in 2016 and this year again was a sold-out, over-subscribed event with some 2500 gin lovers eager to sample the variety of international and local Gin products on offer by established distillers and newcomers to the industry.

Olivier confided that when choosing exhibitors for these famed gin festivals held in the Spring in Melbourne, London and Hamburg, they look for the characters and the spirit of the gin producers because they believe these passions are reflected in the spirits they distil, which no doubt is the case when it comes to Colombo No.7 Gin, listening to its fourth generation founder Amal de Silva Wijeratne explain how this special blend came into being.

Gin tasters at the festival standing three to four deep waited their turn to sample this premier spirit drink distilled to a unique recipe using seven spices and botanicals grown in Sri Lanka, making Colombo No.7 Gin a distinctly Sri Lankan take on a London Dry Gin.

Amal was busy explaining to enquiring samplers the special taste of his company’s Gin and the seven botanicals that make up the recipe – native ingredients cinnamon bark, curry leaves, ginger root and coriander seeds and base ingredients juniper berries, liquorice and angelica – to create a beautifully balanced, subtly spiced Gin, and in case you are wondering, no, it does not taste like curry. On the contrary, it is Gin at its best.

 He tells me that this year he has brought more stock as they sold out on the second day of the festival last year, so popular was this spirit at its Melbourne debut. Also at the stand helping Amal to pour and story-tell were Bryce Jamie (Australian Distributor, Exquisite Liquors), and British-born and Sri Lankan resident Graham Merricks (International Marketing)

This beautiful Gin story started in Sri Lanka 70 years ago during the British occupation of Sri Lanka. The Rockland Gin company (the first distillery in Sri Lanka and maker of Ceylon Arrack) was commissioned to supply the British with their spirits, which were manufactured in Sri Lanka using European botanicals, but during the Second World War, when these ingredients were hard to come by, the spirit makers were forced to turn their minds to a recipe derived from local Sri Lankan ingredients. Thus was born Colombo No.7 and the rest is history.

Colombo No.7 Gin is the first Asian-made, handcrafted Gin of its kind, which at the time of its concoction, stunned the British Excise Officers at the realisation that such a good Gin could be produced outside of the UK, so much so that they passed a law “Ceylon Made Foreign Liquor (CMFL)” allowing non-native spirits to be made in South Asia and exported around the world.

Today, Colombo No.7 Gin is produced in the UK, but the Gin remains true to his grandfather Founder Carl de Silva Wijeratne’s original recipe, still handcrafted in small batches using copper pot stills. Over the years the company tried to improve the recipe but found that Amal’s grandfather had already perfected it, and so the original recipe remains today.

Like me, you will be blown away with the aroma and the subtle spices that will tantalise your taste buds until the smooth flavours of the juniper and other ingredients of this beautifully balanced Gin kick in to hit your senses and linger. You know then you are on to something special.

Tasting note: Good accompaniment with spicy foods, G&T and other bitters. Recommend garnishing with citrus/orange peel, even peppercorns, and serve on ice.

Bottling note:  500 ml and 700 ml sizes, 43.1% ABV, costs range from $47 to $55 for the small size and $67.50 to $75 for the large size. Prices may vary due to promotional offers and shipping costs. Available at all good wine stores. For full listing visit the importer’s website and to purchase online from Nicks Wine Merchants and Melbourne Wine Store. Also listed and served in popular Sri Lankan Restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney.

Watch out for Colombo No.7 Gin soon to be available at Dan Murphy’s.

Graham ponders a question

Gin tasters are pleased with the result

Olivier (Gin Foundry UK) takes on queries


Amal, Graham and Bryce staff the exhibit stand

Gin fans waiting their turn to sample

JuniperLooza Festival Reception

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Sri Lankan Consuls meet 

Marie PieterszContributed by Marie Pietersz, Melbourne

During a recent visit to Melbourne, Hon Consul for Sri Lanka in Queensland, Mr Anton Swan, and wife Bronwen, made a courtesy call on the Consul for Sri Lanka in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, Mr W G S Prasanna, at his offices in Melbourne.

A cordial meeting and informal time was spent together, with both Consuls discussing matters that will improve the services to Sri Lankans in the respective States under their jurisdiction as well as nationally in Australia.


L to R: Hon Consul Mr WGS Prasanna, Bronwen Swan, Hon Consul Mr Anton Swan

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Sri Lankan for Victorian Parliament – Virosh Perera –
Contributed by Marie Pietersz, Melbourne




“With the Victorian State Elections to be held on Saturday, 24 November 2018, it is important that you know your Candidate and what he/she stands for making a difference in shaping Victoria,” Virosh says.

Virosh Perera is a proud Australian from a multicultural background, and honoured to be the Liberal candidate for Dandenong. Virosh is seeking your vote and has this message for the constituents of the City of Greater Dandenong about his political platform and what he can do for you and for the State of Victoria if elected.

“It’s a great honour and a privilege to be your Liberal Candidate in Dandenong; the 5th biggest city in Victoria, where I started my new life in Australia nearly two decades ago.

“I was born in a country town in Sri Lanka called Moratuwa and then moved to UK to complete my postgraduate studies. I started serving the community at the age of 10 at the local church.

“Current policies in Victoria have resulted in rising drug-fuelled crime, punishing cost of living, including electricity prices, congested roads, inadequate public transport and loss of local jobs caused by anti-business policies. As lecturer and entrepreneur, Virosh understands the importance of our children getting a good education and having policies which encourage businesses to employ.

“As a community Advocate, I would like to make difference in the lives of people.

“I was Born in Sri Lanka, Bred in the United Kingdom and Made in Australia.

“When I moved to Melbourne, my first job was as a sales person for Telstra – door knocking. At the same time, my desire was to establish a business, so I remained connected with my roots, which saw my former partner, Geethika, and I started Serendib News in 2000, the first free Sri Lankan newspaper in Australia. The newspaper soon became the backbone for the Serendib Awards, a platform to honour and acknowledge the people who make up the numerous hard-working Multicultural Communities, especially Indians, Fijians, Bangladeshi, Sudanese, Nigerian, Vietnamese, Afghanis, Turkish, Pakistanis, Iranians, Iraqis, Cambodian, Chinese, and others, in this wonderful country.

“Through all these initiatives there were so many opportunities to serve the community and to become an advocate for issues including domestic violence, community integration and of course employment opportunities.

“To support these initiatives, I have lobbied government agencies, charities, Councillors and local government, State Government and even the Federal Government of the day. In addition, I became a Community Ambassador for the AFL, Cricket Australia, Melbourne Stars, the Commonwealth Games, Real Madrid and more, ensuring that multicultural Victoria is considered when it comes to garnering its support and engagement for Sport as a catalyst to nurture and grow young migrants and to integrate them further into the general community.

“I am currently Director Diversity at the South Asian Link Group, a platform for the celebration of culture, diversity and inclusion among multicultural Victorians. As a Head of the Business faculty for the Australian Education Academy in Springvale, I lecture International students in the areas of Business Marketing and Management and offer Career Counselling, Consulting and Mentoring for a range of constituents.

“I am currently involved with a real estate start-up, which is aiming to be next the big innovation in real estate apps in Australia.

“My experience in the community and business world spans 20 years and over three continents.

“I see myself as making a difference to my own child’s future in the areas of Safety, Education and timely Infrastructure and playing a role in making Dandenong even more liveable for our diverse community and preserving it for the future of our children’s children.

“Let’s walk the path with me to make a difference in Victoria especially for the City of Greater Dandenong and endeavour to make this the most vibrant, multicultural Municipality in the world where our differences are nurtured, celebrated and supported.”

Please note if you are an Australian citizen, 18 years and over, you must enrol to vote and be on the Electoral Roll by 6 November. It is compulsory that you vote in the Victorian State Elections. There are a range of options for casting your vote to have your say and make a difference.



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