Shanaka Fernando

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Shanaka Fernando (born 1968) is a Sri Lankan-born Australian restaurateur and self-described "social challenger", best known for his founding of the pay what you can chain of restaurants in Melbourne known as "Lentil as Anything".

Early life[edit]

Shanaka Fernando was born in Thimbirigasyaya,[1] a suburb (divisional secretariat) of Colombo, Sri Lanka, to an Irish Catholic mother and a father of Portuguese descent. His household included various members of his extended family, and they were reasonably well off, but he was acutely aware of the poverty that many of his fellow citizens experienced.[2] He attended a Buddhist school and was involved in theatre and choreography.[3] He appeared in productions of Fame and Guys and Dolls.[1]

Australia[edit]

He came to Australia in 1989[2] [4] He travelled extensively in the third world, and was increasingly drawn to social justice issues.[3] He had a series of jobs before hitting on the idea of a pay what you can non-profit vegetarian restaurant, which he opened in St Kilda in 2000 using his own funds. He named it "Lentil as Anything", after the Australian rock group Mental As Anything. At this time he lived in a tent on the St Kilda foreshore.[5] He has since expanded and there are numerous venues operating under the "Lentil as Anything" banner, including one at the former Abbotsford Convent.[6]

Recognition[edit]

In 2007 Shanaka Fernando won the Australian of the Year "Local Hero Award",[3] receiving the award from the then Prime Minister John Howard.[1]

He has been honoured with an Australian postage stamp, and is listed in Who's Who in Australia, 2008 Edition.[1] In 2009 SBS TV produced a series of four television documentaries on Fernando's enterprise, philosophy and struggles[5] (which include a four-year battle with the Australian Taxation Office over a tax bill of $300,000,[6] which was resolved in Fernando's favour by the law on GST being changed to reduce its application to organisations that are non-profit motivated and have no fixed prices).[1]

He has written a book titled Lentil as Anything: Everybody Deserves a Place at the Table, with Greg Hill, and is often asked to address groups,[7] including sharing the podium with Joan Kirner, a former Premier of Victoria.[8]

He has appeared in the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (Naplan) exam citing the values he promotes. The Lentil as Anything values were created into a teaching unit by the department of education and distributed throughout Australian primary schools [9]

He was invited by the Dalai Lama to join him as a guest judge on MasterChef Australia, season 3, episode 67. [10]

He was inducted to the Museum of Australian Democracy and features in the Living Democracy gallery which includes some examples of the many ways food is intrinsically linked to human rights. [11]

Yet, he says he dislikes attention, and has done what he has done in order to influence others to adopt a more appropriate philosophy.[6]

Personal[edit]

Shanaka Fernando has three children now, two from his current partner, and one from a previous relationship.[6] A dispute over unpaid child support benefits resulted in the freezing of his bank account, and has since been resolved.[12] He told the journalist: "The love of a parent should never be confused with or measured by money. A parent shows love by spending time with their children in a celebration of love and life”.[not in citation given]

In 2011 he faced Melbourne Magistrates' Court over 52 unpaid traffic fines amounting to over $14,000. He claimed that many of them arose through his lending his car to friends and refugees he was helping.[13] At the trial, he explained "My father instructed me that I had a fine tradition to keep up", but the judge was not impressed by this attempt at humour.[6] Later, he went to the infringements office to enter into a payment plan, and they had been waived.[6][not in citation given]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Raine Wickrematunge, Sri Lankan Born Shanaka Fernando's Rise To Australian Hero, Business Today
  2. ^ a b ABC.net.au Archived 2014-04-07 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b c Australian of the Year Awards: Honour Roll
  4. ^ The Age, Local Hero: Shanaka Fernando
  5. ^ a b SBS TV, Who are the Lentilians?
  6. ^ a b c d e f Karl Quinn, "The Lentil messiah or just a very naughty boy?", The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 January 2013
  7. ^ Fernando, Shanaka with Greg Hill (2012). Lentil as Anything: Everybody Deserves a Place at the Table. Vivid Publishing. p. 216. ISBN 978-1-922022-72-1.
  8. ^ Victorian Landcare, Winter 90, Issue 46 Archived 2012-03-31 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-03-11. Retrieved 2017-12-27.
  10. ^ http://lentilasanything.com/food/dalai-lama-visits-masterchef/
  11. ^ https://collection.moadoph.gov.au/objects/2013-0417/
  12. ^ Karl Quinn, "The Lentil messiah or just a very naughty boy?", The Age - Good Food, 13 January 2013
  13. ^ Paul Tatnell, "Good Samaritan Shanaka Fernando faces jail on fines", Herald-Sun, 27 April 2011