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Sikh motorcyclists from rural New South Wales lobby for helmet exemption

Members of Sikh Motorcycle Club Australia Source: Supplied

New South Wales' turban-wearing Sikhs, from the mid-north coast are lobbying to get an exemption from wearing helmets while riding motorcycles.

The law in New South Wales requires all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, which makes it difficult for Sikhs who wear turbans to ride a bike in accordance with the law.

Woolgoolga is home to a large Sikh community that adds to the diversity of Australia.

A group of more than fifteen Sikh farmers who are based in the area are now lobbying to get an exemption from wearing helmets while riding motorcycles.

Ajit Nurpuri is one of a group of Sikh men in Woolgoolga campaigning to have motorbike helmet laws changed.

Nurpuri told SBS Punjabi that being members of the Sikh community they find it difficult to wear helmets over the turban.

“We are law abiding citizens. We fully understand the safety concern. But our demand is to have an exemption at least in the close vicinity to our farms,” says Mr Nurpuri.

"We are talking about utility here."

“We are in farming business from last three-four generations. All we need is permission for in and around our farmlands or in the local area.

“We never use motorcycles for long rides or as a luxury.

"We are talking about utility here."

Ajit Nurpuri migrated to Australia in 1970s from Punjab, India. He is part of the thriving Sikh community who has been responsible for most of the banana and blueberry production in the area.

Mr Nurpuri told SBS Punjabi that he had an exemption for driving motorcycle without helmet in 1975.

“I had an exemption from helmet," he says. "I used to carry exemption certificate along with my driving license."

“But this paperwork was in a rotten state. When I approached RTA to renew it, not only they kept it but also declined to issue again amid safety concerns.

“RTA mentioned that they don’t issue exemptions anymore.    

“We have not met any of the officials at this stage. We’ll discuss within the community first before raising our voice at that level."

Sikh Motorcycle Club Australia
Parampreet Singh is one of key members of Sikh Motorcycle Club Australia (Sidhu Photography)
Supplied

The Sikh Motorcycle Club Australia is also lobbying to get exemptions in Australia. 

According to the representatives of this newly formed club, the legal requirement to wear a helmet discourages members of the Sikh faith to ride bikes in Australia.

More recently, the representatives from the Sikh community conveyed their demand for an exemption while riding bicycles to the NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight.

In 2013, Sydney-based Australian Sikh Association launched a campaign to get helmet exemption for Sikhs to be able to ride bicycles.

At that time, the Sikh community representatives presented a petition of over 400 signatures to Blacktown Council asking for an exemption to the law.

Most of the Motorcycle associations and traffic authorities do not support this call as it could be fatal and life threatening.

In several parts of the world including some states in Canada, Sikh riders are exempted from legal requirements to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle or a bicycle, which cannot be done without removing the turban or Dastaar.

For more news and updates, follow SBS Punjabi on Facebook and Twitter.

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