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Sikhs explore their 120-year-old connection with Indigenous Australians

Members of the WA Sikh community with Noongar elder Rose Davis, who spoke about indigenous history and culture Source: Supplied

Noongar elder Rose Davis welcomed the Sikh community to Tammin, WA, to share stories of their unique connection.

To mark NAIDOC week, two buses filled with over 100 members of the WA Sikh community visited Tammin and Yorkrakine Rock,  about 200 kms from Perth, to get a better understanding of the Indigenous culture of the Noongar people.

Building on the theme of 'Because Of Her - We Can' during NAIDOC Week, Noongar elder Rose Davis took the group of Sikh women to a sacred womens' site in the area.

"It was a wonderful experience for us to see and understand the local culture of Australia's oldest inhabitants. Rose showed us a large rock bed, which has traditionally been used as a birthing site by the Indigenous community for a long, long time," Jaskiran Kaur told SBS Punjabi.

Rose Davis, the Noongar elder, talking about her history and cultural practices
Rose Davis, the Noongar elder, talking about her history and cultural practices
Supplied

Ms Kaur was one of the 120 people from the Sikh community who visited Tammin on Tuesday, July 10, to mark NAIDOC week. Around 80 of those who went along were women.

Ms Kaur added, "Rose Davis has a very special connection to Sikhs. Her husband's great-grandfather was a Sikh hawker named Bung Singh, who worked in the area around the 1880s."

"It was wonderful to see Rose's family there and they were very keen to share their stories with us. The fact is that 120 of us have visited and learnt about their history - and now each one of us can talk about this further, in our social circles."

Sikh community visits Tammin and Yorkrakine Rock, located 200 kms from Perth
Sikh community visits Tammin and Yorkrakine Rock, located 200 kms from Perth
Supplied

This trip to Yorkrakine Rock and Tammin was the 'brainchild' of Mr Tarunpreet Singh from the Sikh Association of WA.

"This was a cultural decoding trip for our community," Mr Singh told SBS Punjabi.

"It was funded by a City of Canning community grant to understand and learn about the Indigenous culture and history during NAIDOC week".

"Rose Davis, the Noongar elder, told us the history of the site we visited and also about her own history. She belongs to the Stolen Generations. She was accompanied by her daughters Doreen and Jodi and by her son Clive and grandson Clive Junior."

The Sikh Association of WA undertook a trip to Tammin during NAIDOC Week 2018
The Sikh Association of WA undertook a trip to Tammin during NAIDOC Week 2018
Supplied

"All the visitors were happy to learn about their history, and by listening to the Noongar elder, we could actually feel their culture."

Speaking about the Sikh connection with WA's Indigenous communities, Mr Singh said, "Sikhs have a 120-year-old history in this Wheatbelt region, which is three times the size of Punjab but a population of 75,000 only."

Some names of early Sikh settlers in the area can be gleaned from various archival records.

Newspaper clippings from archives
Newspaper clippings from archives
Supplied

Newspaper clippings from archives
Supplied

Ms Jaskiran Kaur added, "Visiting York and Tammin is a great start for our community to keep building these relations. All the members were happy with this effort and look forward to learning more about indigenous Australian history."

Mr Singh adds, "The City of Canning has stated that it would like to further develop more opportunities during NAIDOC week each year, so that communities like ours can deepen our relationship with the Indigenous people." 

"In today's age of globalisation and changing economic and trade trends, acknowledging and understanding of  different cultures is more important than before."

Rose Davis, the Noongar elder sharing a meal with the Sikh community
Rose Davis, the Noongar elder sharing a meal with the Sikh community
Supplied

Sikh community visits Tammin and Yorkrakine Rock, located 200 kms from Perth
Supplied

Sikh community visits Tammin and Yorkrakine Rock, located 200 kms from Perth
Supplied

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