Coordinated by a Sri-Lankan Tamil, Luxmanan Selvanesan, who moved to Dunedin in 1999 to study as a student, Vanakkam Tamizha – the only radio show in the South Island in the ancient classical language of Tamil, celebrated its sixtieth show last month. Along with Rajesh Katare and Suresh Emperumal, Mr Selvanesan runs the radio show every Tuesday at 7 p.m., using the platform of Otago Access Radio (OAR) on the frequency 105.4FM.

“We are very thankful to OAR, especially its community liaison manager Jeff Harford, in helping us run the only Tamil show in the South Island. In fact, he was our guest last month, at our sixtieth show. Our aim is to celebrate the richness of Tamil language and culture. Its a place for uniting Tamil communities, with no national barriers,” Mr Selvanesan said.

An initiative of an informal grouping of Tamilians in Otago known as the Dunedin Tamil Friends (DTF) - with almost 200 members from countries including India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia as well as Fiji - Vanakkam Tamizha was launched in early 2016. Normally, the weekly show includes local Tamil community news, interviews, popular music, as well as sharing of poems and literary works.

“We also publicise migrant stories of successful Tamilians across New Zealand. Latest in this series was our interview with Pancha Narayanan, who is a Malaysian Tamil and the present President of the New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils,” Mr Selvanesan added.

An important and widely appreciated recent innovation that Vanakkam Tamizha did was to launch a ladies only segment in their show. “Geeta and Aruna, who are Singaporean and Malaysian Tamil respectively, hosted the first show where they discussed issues affecting ethnic women in the region. Additionally, they also gave a moving tribute to the legendary actress Manorama, who passed away in 2015, and has a mention in Guinness World Records for acting in over 1,500 films in a career spanning nearly six decades,” he added.

“Going by the success we have achieved in bringing the community together, we will be incorporating DTF as a registered charity later this year. Till now, it has been more of an informal grouping of like-minded people,” he said.