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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 13030


Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (16:53): I rise to associate myself with the words of the member for Leichhardt and also acknowledge that we have had a large number of Sikh people in the gallery this afternoon and visiting Parliament House, associated with the presentation of his petition. I also want to thank the member for Leichhardt not only for taking the initiative on this occasion but for doing so in a true spirit of bipartisanship. In doing so I recognise that the electorate of Greenway, which I represent, in fact has a larger number of Sikh people as a percentage of electorate than anywhere else in Australia, at 3.05 per cent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Indeed, I often like to say that, when you look in the White Pages for my area, the most common surname in the Blacktown local government area is not Smith or Jones; it is Singh, which says a lot about the excellent decision that many people of Sikh faith have made to live in the great city of Blacktown.

I have been fortunate to have been welcomed into the Sikh community for many years, both locally—down the road from where I live in Glenwood is the Parklea gurdwara and the home of the Australian Sikh Association—and in the gurdwaras in the communities of Austral and Turramurra. My long association with the Sikh community has enabled me to have a very sound appreciation of their very strong values, which I think are aligned to some of the excellent Australian values that we often like to discuss. Some of those are a belief in one source, that God is the creator of the universe; in equality, that all humans are created equal; that human life is precious above all other life; and in the importance of defending against injustice. It is for this reason that I am very pleased to stand in this chamber today, support the words of the member for Leichhardt and add my own words of support for the sentiment that is in the petition presented today.

The member for Leichhardt has provided some great detail about the matters that form the subject of the petition. I would like to just quote briefly from an article put together by Human Rights Watch, which says:

Angry mobs, instigated by leaders of the then-governing Congress Party, committed countless acts of retribution, killing and wounding thousands of Sikhs and destroying their property and businesses. During ensuing government counterinsurgency operations in Punjab State, from 1984 to 1995, Indian security forces committed serious human rights violations and killed, forcibly disappeared, and tortured thousands of Sikhs.

Importantly:

None of the architects of this counterinsurgency strategy have been brought to justice.

That is the very nature of the petition and the issue that the member for Leichhardt has sought to highlight today, and I think he has done that very effectively.

I had a great opportunity to meet yesterday with representatives of Sikhs for Justice, along with other groups such as the Australian Sikh Association and Sikh Youth Australia. I have been exposed to and enabled to gain a strong understanding of these events and the way they have impacted on Sikh people. It was only barely a decade ago that it was explained to me at an open day at the Parklea gurdwara that these events occurred. It is not something that is routinely taught in schools, despite the fact that it obviously impacts on a very large segment of our community.

I believe that, in bringing forward this petition, we are saying that wrongs need to be righted. In this parliament and in state parliaments, we have in the last couple of years, in a very bipartisan way across parliaments, recognised things that have happened in history. Although we cannot fully make them right in many cases, we can acknowledge that they occurred—things like the acknowledgement of the stolen generation and things such as the acknowledgement of the number of babies that were removed from their families, not only those of Indigenous background. I think that this issue is one that stands up alongside those issues, which this parliament has seen to be so important.

When one greets Sikh people, one says, of course, 'Waheguru Ji Ka Khalso, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.' I say that with the greatest respect to those here, and I wish you a very happy Diwali for 13 November. All the best to you and your families.