Be wary of handouts from political parties, Indian Councillor tells the community.
Hornsby Shire’s Liberal Councillor Gurdeep Singh says that Indian voters should vote for a strong and stable government. Being a community of migrants, Indian voters should expect good economic management and infrastructure from the next government, Singh says. Needless to say, Cr Singh insists only the Liberals can deliver on these fronts. Singh believes that a sound economy and infrastructure are crucial for the welfare not just of Australians but newly arrived immigrants.
On another note, Singh said that he felt optimistic that in the next elections, be it state, local, federal, he is confident the main parties will have more Indian candidates and will stop giving Indian candidates unsafe seats.
Indians make up 4.4% of Hornsby’s population. According to Singh, the official numbers are a consequence of the current administrative divisions in Hornsby Council. He believes that the Indian population is significantly higher. Hornsby, Singh says, is becoming an attractive destination for large numbers of young Indian migrants due to its employment opportunities.
Singh represents B Ward in the Council, and there are just 700 Indian voters in his ward. However, he believes that the goodwill from the Indian community on hearing news about his decision to contest the elections was overwhelming.
While the Indian community comes to grips with its growing numbers and related concerns in Australia, community leaders and other members have been making attempts to raise awareness within the community about the elections and the stakes involved for the Indian community.
The Indian community is diverse not just culturally but socially and economically. To make matters more challenging, Australia’s economy is changing dramatically, and, like it or not, migration and small business, in all its forms are hard to ignore.
Singh says that his life as a member of the Indian community in Australia has been significantly shaped by the phenomenal waves of migration from the Indian subcontinent in the last decade. He says that both individually and socially the influx of Indians has changed life for the community almost overnight.
Given that the elections are just days away it’s understandable when Singh claims that the Liberal Party was instrumental in reviving Air India’s flights from Delhi to Sydney after a 16-year absence. Even as Singh never misses an opportunity to talk about the achievements of the Liberals, his interests and concerns never stray far from the life of the Indian community in Australia. On the one hand the “larger picture”, which is the Australian elections; on the other hand the social life of the fastest growing migrant community of Australia. Singh lives in these two worlds: one, the settled life of a professional from India; the other, a life shaped by the ever growing needs and aspirations of Indians in Australia.
When Singh first arrived in Australia with his family in the early 1990s, Indians were so rare in Sydney that on his one-and-a-half hour commute to work, any time he saw an Indian he’d get off the train just to say hello. Who’d believe that was only 20 years ago. The Indian community had a sense of being isolated in those days, he says. Singh lived in Hornsby at the time and didn’t hear about the gurudwara in Turramurra for the first five years of his life in Sydney.
There is an interesting story about this gurudwara: When the North Shore Sikh Association after more than a decade of using a building, which used to be a church, as a Sikh temple –decided to build a gurudwara on the site, local residents objected and the Council refused permission to build the temple. Among the reasons cited were that the design of the temple didn’t fit in aesthetically with the surrounds. Singh was part of a group that worked with the council to gain local acceptance of the temple.
Cr Singh is an engineer with a practice spanning over two decades. When he decided to migrate he had a successful career as a civil engineer in India. But in Australia, although the professional accreditation agency was highly impressed with his knowledge and experience, he found it hard to get a salaried job in his profession. So Singh set up his own practice with just an “A3 drawing board” in his house and advertised in the local paper for $17. In a few years the practice had become quite successful and Singh was also developing an appreciation for the life and challenges of Indians in Australia.
The life of a professional in India often leaves little time for spiritual matters. And, Singh, who grew up in a religious home had other priorities in India. But life in Australia led to a rediscovery of Sikh spirituality and religion. As they say in India, one goes to the west to discover the east. And so community, migration, spirituality and politics all came together in the gurudwara at Turramurra. For Cr Singh these were experiences (his practice, his involvement with Indian associations, his work with the Sikh temple) that helped form his political activities and outlook.
His message to the Indian community: “Do not wait for handouts from the parties or anyone else. Do the groundwork and get involved with the wider community and with the political parties. That way Indians can ensure they won’t get left out in the future elections.”