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Sikhs have made Australia their home for about 100 years

Religious needs of the Sikh community have been honored, by the gazettal of a separate Sikh cremation place in 1932

History says that many years ago, Indians came to Australia to run camel trains. These Indians were Afghans and they used to keep the supply line and communication open between the Centre of Australia and Melbourne. The goods and mail were transported using camels through the desert.

Later, the Punjabis came, got involved in the Victorian fields and took part in the rush for gold. Apart from them, Muslims from North Western Punjab region worked as camel drivers in the Central Australian dessert. Since then, more Indians came to Australia more than fifty years ago while both India and Australia were British colonies.

Like many others, Tarun Preet Singh migrated to Australia in 2002 with his wife and three kids and decided to settle in Perth. He joined the Sikh Association in around 2007-2008 and volunteered as a committee member in 2009.

Tarunpreet Singh ( Photo courtesy: http://www.australiansikhheritage.com/
Tarunpreet Singh ( Photo courtesy: http://www.australiansikhheritage.com/)

He found a brass plaque in the Canningvale gurdwara managed by SAWA. After inquiring people about its existence, he came to know about the former Sikh Cemetery in Adenia Park in Riverton suburb and about Mr John Parker of Canning Districts Historical Society.

Related Article: The spirited journey of Canadian Sikhs

On meeting Mr. Parker, he came to know that the brass plaque was designed by him and that got Tanupreet curious. On further questioning, Parker told him that he made the plaque using 20 kilos of brass metal in the year 1992. To be extra safe, he had made two of them, thinking that if one gets lost or misplaced, he could use the other.

The brass plaque in the Canningvale gurdwara managed by SAWA.
The brass plaque in the Canningvale gurdwara managed by SAWA.

Through this, Singh came to know about the migration of Sikhs in Australia and that people belonging to Sikh community were an integral part of Australia for more than 100 years.

The Adenia Park site history is listed on WA State Heritage Register as of significant historic value associated with WA State Cremation Act of 1929 and undertaking of cremation. The site is one of the proofs that Sikhs have made Australia their home for a very long time. The place is a symbol of acceptance of diverse ethnic groups who tried to maintain their customs, traditions and rituals.

This is how the religious needs of the Sikh community came forward and resulted in the gazettal of a separate Sikh cremation place in 1932. There are more than 12 cremation sites present in WA but this one was allotted for the Sikh community officially by the Government.

Further, this led to the discovery of an important piece in the history of a WW-II battle on West Australian soil that the Royal Indian Air Force Flying Officer Manmohan Singh died in. The Allied forces had 22 aircrafts that were destroyed and 88 personnel died on March 3, 1942 in Broome, West Australia. The historic incident also included USAF, RAF, RAAF and Dutch Airforce.

SAWA initiated by organizing a small event annually from 2011 at the site on the first weekend of March to commemorate both these important pieces of Sikh history in WA.

Few members of the SAWA community came forward to join the vital pieces of Sikh in the history of WA and formed ASHA (Australian Sikh Heritage Association) in the year 2014.

Apart from this, ASHA is also working on various projects that will bring forth the crucial roles played by Sikhs and the contributions made by them in the development of Australia.

City of Canning came forward and offered a great support to ASHA by building a pathway costing $35k in 2016 and Lotterywest has supported them with a grant of $150k.

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