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'After India, Melbourne should host the biggest celebrations of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary'

Members of the Sikh community during a religious procession in the south east of Melbourne. Source: SBS Punjabi

Seeking re-election in the oncoming November election, the Labor government has made a host of announcements for the Sikh community in Victoria.

With less than two months to go for elections in Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews made a sweet proposal to the surging Sikh community of the state under which the community’s major religious events will be financially supported if Labour Party comes to power again. The premier wants Melbourne to host the biggest celebrations outside of India of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, slotted for 2019.

In a roundtable meeting between Premier Andrews and Sikhs Australia Strategy group – a representative body of Victoria’s Sikh community – a proposal was made to pump in $200,000 for ensuring that Melbourne’s celebrations of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary in November 2019.

Mr Andrews said that the teachings of Guru Nanak are in line with the multicultural society that is Australia.

“Next year, in November, the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak will be celebrated. We want the celebrations in Melbourne to be the biggest outside of India,” said Premier Andrews. 

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews with members of the Sikh community. (Safia Sahib)

The premier also proposed to organise a march from Parliament House to Federation Square on the occasion. Along with this, he also proposed to financially support an ongoing celebration every year of Guru Nanak’s birthday, although on a smaller scale.

The Victorian Premier also mentioned that if the Labour Party wins the upcoming elections in Victoria, he would like to support the annual Vaisakhi Festival with a funding of $70,000 as he has been impressed with the celebrations he has attended on more than one occasion.

Vaiskahi is the founding day of the Khalsa tradition, which encompasses the basic tenets of Sikhism. In addition, he also vowed to make the next annual Australian Sikh games to be held in Melbourne the best ever.

“The Sikh community in Victoria is Australia’s biggest and most vibrant. We are very grateful for the contribution Sikh families make in every part of our daily life. We are a stronger and fairer state for all the contribution Sikh families make. We are talking about getting schools involved, the broader Victorian community involved which is how we can tell the story of the central tenets of the Sikhism. It’s a way of us thanking the Sikh community for everything they do for making Victoria fairer and stronger,” said Premier Andrews, addressing more than 50,000 Sikhs living in Victoria.

Luckee Kohli, the head of the Sikhs Australia Strategy Group said: “Today is a historic day for the 50,000 Sikhs of Victoria. The honourable premier has listened to all issues raised by the over three dozen representatives of the Sikh community and has assured us of his action on all. We are thankful to him for giving us more time than he had alotted to today’s meeting.”

SBS Punjabi asked Premier Andrews to juxtapose his support to a migrant community with the recent idea of subjecting migrants to an assimilation test, floated by One Nation Federal Senator Pauline Hanson, Premier Andrews replied: "Today isn’t a day for politics but I just want to say that this country wasn’t built by migrants who passed a citizenship test. Nobody’s love for Australia can be gauged by a test. We are a multicultural country and that’s what we stand for.”

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