Celebrating the Sikh way of life

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Devpaal Singh, the youngest Sikh to be elected to the advisory board of Multicultural NSW, talks to Shveata Chandel Singh about his role as adviser as well as how the Sydney University Sikh Society helps the youth

Devpaal Singh was inducted into the world of politics when he was elected member of the New South Wales Youth Parliament Program. He says that it was from then on that his interest in politics grew, especially in the context of the law and how it affected youth in a multicultural society.

The Australian born Sikh — whose parents are fourth generation Malaysians, is now in his fourth year of Combined Engineering Law at the University of Sydney. In September last year, he was elected to the advisory board of Multicultural NSW and as chair of the Multicultural Youth Network – which, he says, has allowed him to work hand in hand with communities at a strategic level. “And I’m enjoying every minute of it,” says Singh.

Most recently, Singh became the youngest Sikh to be elected as Advisory Board Member of Multicultural NSW, where, as one of the two youth members, he is responsible for chairing the Multicultural Youth Network, a forum for young people with a personal commitment to the values of multiculturalism.

“As an ABM, we are representatives of all the communities in NSW – with no discrimination – and to work with Multicultural NSW to address issues as they arise. We engage in constructive consultation with these diverse multicultural communities, represent Multicultural NSW at community events and provide guidance to the agency in establishing and implementing strategic decisions,” says Singh.

For the last few years, Singh has been working tirelessly at connecting Sikh youth with mainstream Australia.

In 2013, Singh came up with the idea of the Sydney University Sikh Society (SUSS) as a means to recognize the need to connect Sikh students with each other and to the wider community. “We thought it was more than necessary to communicate in a positive manner about who Sikhs are, and we’ve done this through various events. For instance, we ran a turban tying day where we tied turbans on anyone who would allow us to. We did this to break down any negative connotations associated with the turban,” says Singh. SUSS also ran a community kitchen serving 2000 university students and staff with a free gourmet meal in 2014. “Our society won a prize for Best Club under 100 members,” says Singh.

All of SUSS’s events are designed to connect Sikhs with each other, positively with their identity and as proud contributors to the wider Sydney University landscape. “We hope to build community capacity, by providing Sikh students with a structure to address issues which affect them both at a global and local level,” says Singh. “It is important to communicate in a positive manner that Sikhs are an honest and hardworking people who believe in contributing to the wider society and being a good citizen. We’ve seen great examples of this recently with Harman Singh in NZ taking off his turban to help a wounded child and Gurteg Singh in the US jumping on train tracks to help a visually impaired man,” he adds.

Singh is also part of the Sikh Youth Australia (SYA) — the largest Sikh Youth organisation in Australia and NZ — tasked at providing and satisfying needs of the youth. It was established in 1999 to help Sikh youth maintain their identity, develop personal skills and contribute to the wider community while maintaining Australian values. “This is an organization that focuses on cultural, social and leadership development for Sikh youth in Australia,” says Singh, who joined SYA in 2009 as a volunteer and is now the organisations’ National Communications and Marketing Director.

“In July, one of our flagship events, the Leadership Program, is coming up, which focuses on the professional development of youth to inspire them to reach the next level in their personal, professional or spiritual life,” says Singh, and adds that this year for the first time, SYA is introducing a commercially focused Startup Bootcamp run by successful international entrepreneurs Ash Singh and Sundeep Singh.

Singh says there are a number of organizations and awards that are coming up to recognize Indian contributions to Australian life. For instance, Singh, who is also the ambassador for The India Australia Business & Community Awards (IABCA), says the event recognizes the role played by Australian Indians in shaping this country from both a cultural and business perspective. “It’s a chance to celebrate those in our community that have crafted change in either community or business spheres,” he says.

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