October 9, 2013 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London, United Kingdom (October 09, 2013): It is leanrt that recently the Sikh Council UK arranged a meeting with the Hon. Nicholas Kotsiras MP, an Australian politician for the Liberal Party and the Minister for Energy and Resources and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship for the state of Victoria.
The meeting took place at Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall and was organised following contact by Gurdarshan Singh of the Interfaith Sikh Council of Victoria. A useful briefing was provided by Dya Singh of SEWA Network & Cultural Education, Melbourne, Victoria, and Gurmukh Singh, Member of the Board of Jathedars for the Sikh Council UK. In addition, a United Sikhs representative also provided a short briefing of some of the challenges faced by Sikhs in Victoria.
The Minister first congratulated Sikhs in the UK for establishing a platform to bring Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations together to discuss common issues and a strategy to deal with them by the formation of the Sikh Council UK. He suggested this was a model Sikhs in Australia at a state and national level could learn from. He indicated around 26,000 Sikhs live in Victoria, which is Australia’s most densely populated state and geographically the smallest on the Australian mainland.
One real plus point put across by the Minister was the existence of a Multicultural Act in Victoria. Not all other Australian states have similar legislation protecting and promoting multiculturalism. The main issues discussed were around the Sikh identity and in some areas Victoria compares favourably with the UK e.g. Amritdharia Sikhs are allowed to carry the Kirpan and are issued with police cards. The Minister pointed out turban wearing Sikh police and custom officers were now also well established.
The briefing from United Sikhs suggested the wearing of the Dastaar in the workplace in certain industries remains an issue in the state of Victoria e.g. construction industry. The Minister was told about the UK legal position and promised a copy of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission guidance relating to the Sikh identity. Candidly the Minister pointed out this was the first time the issue of the wearing of the Dastaar in the workplace e.g. construction industry was being raised directly with him by Sikhs.
Based on the briefing provided by Dya Singh the issue of separate monitoring of Sikhs by public bodies was raised. It was clear from the conversation many in an official capacity regard Sikhs as Indians or Indian Sikhs and proper monitoring of Sikhs remains a challenge. The Minister was made aware of the Mandla v Lee case and the House of Lords decision in 1983 that provided specific recognition of Sikhs. He was also informed how 40,000 public bodies in the UK need to monitor to ensure fair provision of public services. Sikhs in Australia will need to follow up on the need for public bodies in Victoria and other states to separately monitor Sikhs.
Gurmel Singh and Dabinderjit Singh led discussions with the Minister. Those that attended the meeting included and pictured from left to right are Surinder Singh Jandu, Gurmel Singh, the Hon. Nicholas Kotsiras MP, Dabinderjit Singh, Jagtar Singh Gill, Parminder Singh Birdi, Giani Gurbux Singh Gulshan and Baldev Singh.
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