I was honoured last week to meet His Holiness Sant Baba Amar Singh Ji at the Gurdwara Sahib Nanaksar temple in Lynbrook for a very important discussion about community resource building for our region. His holiness is a world-renowned figure who has worked with many political leaders, including former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair, on issues like poverty alleviation, educational development and religious projects around the world. He is truly an internationally significant figure within the Sikh community.
Baba Ji, realising the enormous liberating power of education, has opened up schools throughout India and abroad, providing much-needed education to the needy. In 1988, Baba Ji had the foresight to purchase a piece of land in Lynbrook. This is in 1988—a long, long time ago—and there was not a lot out there. He bought this piece of land to build a new Sikh temple and to cater for the growing Sikh population in Victoria, which now totals approximately 45,000 people. At the time that Baba Ji was travelling around the suburb of Lynbrook it would have been, effectively, farmland, so it was great foresight by His Holiness and it took great vision to create that opportunity for the Sikh community to have the temple there. And I am sure that over time, provided that governments of all persuasions provide appropriate support, it will become an iconic community based facility.
Sikhism is one of the world’s largest formalised religions and it traces its origins to Guru Nanak who lived in India in the 15th century. Many of the world’s Sikhs live in the Punjab region; however, there are large communities in a lot of other countries, including Australia. The local Sikh community in my constituency is an amazing community. They are a very integrated community. They are a community that really does make a difference in my area. And they were a community that came to the forefront when we had issues of community concern about community safety, which is now making the headlines in papers like the Herald Sun. But it was their direct face-to-face consultation and input that alerted me to the extent of the difficulties we are facing with community safety in our region—because of what they told me, because of the Sikh community.
They were the first community that organised a community safety forum with Victoria Police, which allowed us to discuss this issue. This was during the federal election campaign, so we are talking a long time before it really, in a manner of speaking, hit the broadsheets like the Herald Sun. So I would like to commend them for the work that they have done on behalf of the overall community.
After speaking with Baba Ji and committee members Manpal Singh, Raj Singh and Kamalpreet Singh, I look forward to working in partnership with them and to obtaining the approximately $1.2 million dollars in funding that is needed for a community kitchen, a community bathroom, doors, lift, community area and car park to complete the temple.
But I think also what has occurred in the United Kingdom is that, when Tony Blair was Prime Minister, Baba Ji spoke to him, and they obtained government funding to ensure that the school was actually built in the United Kingdom. What happened after that is that it is going to become one of the first Sikh universities in Europe. So this is the trajectory I think that this fantastic facility in Lynbrook can follow. The fact that his Holiness has actually spent so much time coming down to Australia, motivating his community and talking to political leaders, like myself, means that we can bring this project to fruition, on a collective basis not just on a singular basis.
It is an iconic temple which is yet to be completed, by importantly a school facility also. We have had a lot of discussion about multiculturalism and what it means. But I can tell you what I see with the Sikh community. I see a community that wants to create a facility primarily for the rest of the community not just for the Sikh community. As I said, it is a community that was concerned and wanted to talk to me about their community safety before it became a very popular issue. But it is now a community that wants to build facilities so that they can feed the poor and the homeless. They have a situation where they will feed people on a consistent basis if they can get the centre up and running properly.
This is the story of Australia. It is a great story, and I will do what I can to assist the Sikh community to complete their mission and their journey on behalf of the community.