Contrary to general perception Sikhs have a more than 100 years old history in Australia. Not many are aware that turbaned, bearded men died fighting on the shores of this continent during World War-II. But long before this, among the first settlers in Australia, before roads and road transport were laid, were Indians who ran […]
Contrary to general perception Sikhs have a more than 100 years old history in Australia. Not many are aware that turbaned, bearded men died fighting on the shores of this continent during World War-II.
But long before this, among the first settlers in Australia, before roads and road transport were laid, were Indians who ran camel trains. They kept the communication and supply line open between Melbourne and the central Australia.
The Australian Sikh Heritage Association, which launched a Sikh trail at Adenia Park this March, aims to document the turbaned outback men. The trail also includes the Western Australia State Heritage listed Sikh cremation site. This is a significant heritage site for Australia’s Sikh and Australian communities.
It comprises the 500m physical Australian Sikh Heritage Trail and the virtual trail that will document and allow visitors to explore the Australian Sikh Heritage trail sites (hundreds across Australia) through an application. Already over $100,000 has been spent on the project. The association has also secured a government grant of $150,000 to develop an interpretive panel along the physical trail which should see a public launch by March 2017.
The trail date was particularly selected to pay homage to the first Sikh aviator Flying Officer Manmohan Singh’s role in a WW-II battle on West Australian soil. This Royal Indian Air Force of ficer was on board his flying boat moored on Roebuck Bay on March 3, 1942, when nine Japanese Zeroes fitted with detachable, long-distance fuel tanks strafed his plane along with 22 others that day.He was among the 88 personnel who died that day in Broome, West Australia.
Harjit Singh from the Australian Sikh Heritage Association says, “Our aim is to promote Sikh heritage find ings among the wider Australian Sikh community . Everyone who came to the event was involved in the activities as an expression of solidarity with the wider Australian Sikh community . Phase 1 of the trail saw massive support and huge success.
For phase 2 of the trail, we sent an application to the Western Australian government seeking a grant of $ 150K for capital works. The grant has been approved and we have begun our work.Phase 2 will be about interpretative signages along the pathway and phase 3 will be about digital application.Response from the Sikh community on this has been excellent. We are currently in the process of inculcating this in school books and syllabus. History teachers seem very excited about it.”
Plaque to history
Tarunpreet Singh from the same organization says, “In 2009 I found this brass plaque in the Canningvale g u r dw a r a m a n a g e d by SAWA. I learnt about the former Sikh Cemetery in Adenia Park in Riverton suburb and about John Parker of Canning Districts Historical Society. On meeting him, I was overwhelmed to lear n that Parker had hand-crafted it. He gathered all this infor mation and made this plaque in 1992 by melting 20 kilos of brass.
He made two plaques in case one is lost or misplaced.I thus learnt from him about Sikhs being an integral part of Australia for more than 100 years. This made me more curious to learn more about the history of Sikh migration to Australia.