Taking interfaith understanding to the next level, Melbourne-based Gurinder Kaur has won the Westfield Local Heroes 2019 award. She will use the $10,000 grant to reach out to schools, workplaces and interfaith organisations to increase awareness about Sikh identity.
Gurinder Kaur from the Khalsa Education Society is proud and happy to be named Westfield Local Hero, in Melbourne’s north.
As a volunteer with the Khalsa Education Society, Ms Kaur aims to promote cultural harmony and interfaith solidarity by visiting schools, workplaces and interfaith organisations to familiarise people with the turban worn by Sikhs as part of their identity.
Ms Kaur told SBS Punjabi that the program also helps by breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions that sometimes lead to bullying of Sikh children in schools.
“Sikhs have a great legacy and contribution to society. Hence, we want to promote Sikh identity in Australia and educate children on what it means to be a Sikh,” she says.
“Ours is a religion of peace and truthfulness and we can’t let anyone run negative associations between turbans and hate that is being spread among young minds.”
One of the society’s innovations is to run turban tying stalls, where non-Sikhs can try wearing a turban and get to know more about the religion.
Ms Kaur said she is proud of the work that she is doing, which is also part of her identity.
“I grew up with a culture of Sarbat da Bhala, which in Punjabi means wellbeing of all,” she adds.
“I was raised to care about the people around you without any judgment. They are like my extended family, my brothers and sisters."
Ms Kaur has been involved in these efforts in her local community, ever since she arrived in Australia in 2006.
“I work in a full-time job as a business analyst, but I try my best to support local projects, such as getting involved in the Whittlesea Relay for Life to support cancer research,” she said.
“I am very passionate about giving back to this country, which has given me everything I desired for – including a prosperous life and a shared vision to work for the betterment of the society.”
She said that she wants to encourage others in the Sikh as well as the Indian community to take part in similar initiatives.
“I often commit my time and effort for community-based projects."
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation.