It is a matter of great pride for the Indian Australian community that one of our own, Amar Singh now popularly known as the face of Australian charity Turbans 4 Australia has been awarded the Australian Local Hero for 2023 by the australianoftheyear.org.au.
Amar came to Australia 25 years ago. Originally from a small town near Patiala in Punjab, he only 15 when his family moved to Australia in the late 90s to Sydney. And now Sydney has been his home ever since.
After completing his schooling, he studied engineering, moved on to a government job and then started a transport business.
He started the charity Turbans 4 Australia in 2015. The rest as they say is history. Less than 8 years later, he was hobnobbing with the prime minister of the country and award – Australia’s local here for 2023.
Tell us about the wonderful work you have done helping New South Wales flood victims and other people in distress.
“We started off by helping during the drought back in 2015. And then we’re also doing a couple of multicultural events. You know, during the women’s T20 World Cup, we tied turbans and arranged Bhangra performances in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. That’s how it sort of grew as a community as well. We wanted people to be not scared of our turban”, a proud Australia’s 2023 Local Hero Amar Singh told in a zoom interview with Dinesh Malhotra.
“Coming back to the current crisis, I think since the bushfires, we sort of got really big in terms of providing relief, out to, you know, towns, regionally in New South Wales, all the way up to north near Queensland border and down south to Victorian border. That was our main run in straight into COVID relief from bushfires, and then into flood and back to COVID. And the second lock down and back into floods. And it just been a nonstop journey so far. But we’re so glad that we’ve helped so many people along the way”, Amar added.
From this year, Amar has committed to working full time doing the charity work. His work is centred in NSW (Clyde), Victoria (Thomastown), Woodbrun (NSW) and food van(s) in Brisbane.
“This year, the plan is to go full time into charity. Because now we have a center in Sydney here. Clyde. We have one in Thomastown Victoria, we have Woodburn northern New South Wales where the floods have been, we’re also on our foodvan in Brisbane. So it’s getting sort of serious work”, Amar said.
The food van in Brisbane was launched at the 9 July Turban Fest.
Discussing the Indian community in Australia in general, Amar said the community was doing really well. He proudly pointed out that in the last census, India as a source country, had overtaken China and New Zealand.
“So it’s a it’s a huge honor it as a way, in a way as well, that we, as a community are growing. And I think it’s a good way forward for our communities to be working towards” he added.
The simmering troubles within the NSW and Victorian Indian communities, including the most recent Khalistan referendum on January 29 were also discussed.
It needs to be pointed out that at this time, Amar expressed his desire to be rather part of a panel of “credible people” to discuss issues facing our community.
When asked to explain his idea of ‘credible people’, he cited ‘the Tiranga Rally – Glenwood Gurudwara’ issue and clarified he would not accept an invite if the people behind that rally, were to sit on the panel.
But Amar was all praise for the work the NSW police did in stopping the Tiranga Rally midway. According to Amar, had it not been stopped, both sides would have clashed like the Kalistani referendum at Fed Square.
“I want to see people who actually have done something for the community. There are people who organized a trianga rally to go to Glenwood Gurudwara in Sydney, which I was part of stopping. I will not sit on a panel with those people… But I’m thankful to the New South Wales Police who stopped it in due time, because they would have had a repeat of what happened in Federation Square”, Amar added.
As far Hindu-Sikh relationships within our community, Amar says;
“I have great friends that I went to school in India, who are from Hindu faith; we have great, very close family friends in here in Sydney that are from Hindu faith. I have made many friends interstate as well that are mixed Hindu and Sikh couples. I respect every religion being Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, or Christian.”
And about troubles brewing in our communities across Australia, Amar categorically says it is politics at play.
“But what is happening here, I think is the political spectrum rising up and that can hurt the diversity and harmony and community”, Amar added.