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  • Jasjit Singh was the first turban-wearing Sikh sapper who formed part of the Catafalque Party on ANZAC Day services in Melbourne. (Supplied)
“It was an honour and an incredible opportunity to have been formed part of the Catafalque Party that allowed me to represent the Australian Army and the Sikhs at the same time,” said Sapper Jasjit Singh.
English
By
1 May 2019 - 3:09 PM  UPDATED 2 May 2019 - 11:41 AM

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Jasjit Singh, an Army Reserve Combat Engineer has experienced an Anzac Day many in the Australian Defence Force would envy.

He was the first and only turban-wearing sapper who formed part of the Catafalque Party that slow-marched inside the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground ahead of the annual Anzac Day match on April 25. 

                            

                           

As per the tradition, every year, a party of specially trained servicemen marches on to the MCG ahead of the Essendon vs Collingwood AFL match, a service performed to honour the Anzac soldiers who served and sacrificed in the Gallipoli campaign.

“It was an honour and an incredible opportunity to have been formed part of the Catafalque Party that allowed me to represent the Australian Army and the Sikhs at the same time,” Sapper Jasjit Singh said in an interview with SBS Punjabi.

Special exemptions for turbaned Sikhs in the Australian Army
As a debate rages around Australia about religious headwear and whether all Australian schools (state, independent or religious) should allow Sikh children to wear turbans, it is worth remembering that the Australian armed forces have a special exemptions in their dress manual, for members of the Sikh community.

This year it was even more special as the Bombers v Magpies Anzac Day fixture entered its 25th year.

“The reason I tried so hard to get on the MCG catafalque party was so I could be seen as a Sikh on the international stage and spark curiosity and in time understanding and acceptance of the differences between a Sikh and non-Sikh,” he said.

"The aim was to highlight the diversity and the cohesion in The Australian Army which is incredibly important to make visible in the wider community. With all the terrible things happening around the world it is a pivotal time in history to either unite different communities or let them live in ignorance and fear," he added.

And the feedback received so far has been all positive, according to Mr Singh. 

"People are already messaging and commenting on Facebook that they had no idea about the 'puggaree' or the slouch hat and a high school history teacher has mentioned that they are going to be taking this information to the classrooms," he said.

What is the Catafalque Party?

Catafalque parties are mounted around coffins as a sign of respect and around memorials on occasions of remembrance such as Anzac Day.

As defined by the Australian Army, the Catafalque Party consists of four members of an armed guard who stand, their heads bowed and their arms (weapon) reversed, facing outward approximately one metre from the coffin or catafalque as a symbolic form of respect for those who have fallen.

The young reservist also formed part of the Catafalque Party for a dawn service in Ringwood and marched alongside his mates from the 22nd Engineer Regiment in the Melbourne CBD parade from Collins Street to the Shrine of Remembrance.  

Jasjit Singh's Background:

Born and brought up in Amritsar in the northern Indian state of Punjab, Mr Singh arrived in Australia along with his family when he was eight years old.

He joined the Defence Reserves in 2013 and is now looking forward to getting his promotional courses and helping the communities in need, as part of the Army’s part-time personnel.

“I want to help and support the local community facing hardships. This is what the Australian Reserve Force represents and is also the core value of Sikhi,” said Jasjit Singh.

Listen to SBS Punjabi Monday to Friday at 9 pm. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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