My name is Amar Singh, and I'm a proud Australian Sikh man. I'm also the founder and president of Turbans 4 Australia. I started my charity organisation back in 2015 because I wanted to educate my fellow Australians about the Sikh community.
Baptised Sikhs like myself are very visible because we wear turbans and grow beards. Some people assume we are Muslim, so target us with the same types of slurs often directed towards the Muslim community. A co-worker once told me I looked like a terrorist. While simply going about my daily life, strangers on the street have asked me if I’m carrying a bomb, or what I’m hiding under my turban. It’s worth remembering that after the terrible events of 9/11, the first victim of a hate crime was an American Sikh.
It saddened me that my turban, my spiritual crown, the most sacred object on my body, had become an object of fear. My experiences of discrimination were far from the accepting multicultural Australian society I had known and loved since I arrived here as a teenager. I wanted Australians to see Sikhs as people they could trust and turn to in times of need. And I wanted to do so by following the teachings of my faith, particularly our strong tradition of welcoming and helping those in need regardless of their faith, ethnicity or social status.
So I thought: what better way to teach others about my community and my faith than through charity work?
Since we began, Turbans 4 Australia has helped people in need, both in Australia and abroad. In 2015, we delivered around $3000 worth of groceries to farmers doing it tough in Dubbo. We drove seven semi-trailers full of hay to drought-stricken farmers in Coonamble, showing Australian farmers that we appreciate their hard work. We provided victims of Cyclone Marcia in Queensland with $4500 worth of supplies, and collected over $4000 of groceries for the people of Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam. In 2016, we helped renovate a community hub in Mount Druitt by donating and installing three new air conditioners. These are only a few examples of what we’ve been able to achieve thanks to the hard work of our volunteers and generous donations from the Sikh community.
We’ve taught people in cities all over Australia about the Sikh community through our regular Turban Fest events. By tying turbans on people’s heads, we create an opportunity to chat with out fellow Australians and show them that our turbans and beards are nothing to fear. We’ve staged traditional Bhangra dance performances and demonstrated the Sikh martial art of Gatka at venues throughout the nation, including official Australia Day celebrations in Sydney and Melbourne, the Cancer Council’s Relay for Life, and numerous multicultural events.
By forming connections with people from all walks of life, we're breaking down the barriers of fear and misunderstanding while following the core Sikh values of equality, respect and service to humanity. As a proud Sikh and Australian, it is my deepest hope that Turbans 4 Australia will continue to promote multiculturalism, interfaith dialogue, charity and compassion for many years to come. My fellow volunteers and I will certainly try our hardest to create a more tolerant society.