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$150K WA grant to highlight Australia's Sikh history

Tarun Preet Singh from Australian Sikh Heritage Association, Perth Source: Supplied

Western Australia's rich Sikh history will come to life thanks to the addition of interpretive panels along the Australian Sikh Heritage Trail in Riverton. Here is WA Sikh representative in conversation with SBS Punjabi's Preetinder Singh Grewal.

The $150,000 grant will help establish an interactive heritage park based on the history of the Sikh community in Perth, WA.

Sikh community representative Tarun Preet Singh said the completed park would attract tourists and visitors to learn about the contribution of Sikhs in building Australian identity.

“This site in Riverton will be redeveloped to showcase the history of Sikhs in Australia,” Mr Singh said in conversation with SBS Punjabi. 

“The WA State Cremation Act 1929 is related to this site. Later on we will build an app and link all Sikh related sites across the country and this site will be the hub of the Australian Sikh Heritage Trail.

“This is Australian history. Australian history consists of 150 years of distinct and significant contribution from the Sikh community in shaping the present cultural and social landscape of Australia."

Tarun Preet Singh said that Australian Sikh Heritage Trail would have unique themes.

“We plan to build a pathway around the Adenia Park which will be marked with a few signs,” he said. “Each sign will have a theme (like) Sikh farmers, Sikh wrestlers, Sikh Anzacs, Sikh hawkers and Sikh Enterpreneurs. Then there will be an interpretive shelter, with park benches and a boardwalk near the Canning River.

The City of Canning has invested $35,000 building the pathway and the Department of Parks and Wildlife would manage the project, while Canning will undertake the construction and subsequent maintenance of the site.

The Historical Background of Sikh Cemetery Reserve

A small Reserve occupying 0.2ha  was gazetted in 1932 for the purpose of a Sikh Cemetary. The reserve was located in the Riverton/Ferndale area, on the left bank of the Canning River, in the present Bicentennial Adenia Reserve.

In the 1930's the area was isolated and largely undeveloped with few residents living in the vicinity.

Sikhs are members of a religious community, which traditionally follow the Hindu practice of cremation. The community in Western Australia was never large and only a small number of cremations are likely to have been carried on this site.

The reserve was cancelled in 1977 and revested as public open space. The site was modified as part of the redevelopment of the area in the late 1980's, as a result of minor earth works and tree planting. A plaque erected to record the site has subsequently been removed by vandals.

The significance of Sikh Heritage Park, Perth 

The site is important for historic reasons because of its association with the religious rituals of the small Sikh communiy of Western Australia. Cremation was not generally permitted in Western Australia until the passing of the Cremations Act 1929, although some cremations of people of 'Asiatic race', took place in country areas and at Woodman's Point Quarantine Station before that date and before the building of crematorium facilities at Karrakatta Cemetary in the late 1930's.

The site therefore has importance as part of the broader history of cemeteries and religious practises associated with the disposal if the dead in Western Australia and is closely associated with the passing of the Cremations Act 1929 and the acceptance of cremation in the wider community.

The site has social value for the Sikh community because of its religious associations and because it contributes to a recognition of the Sikh community as a part of their history of the state.

More info - 

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