Amar is driving from Sydney to Darwin to engage culturally diverse communities with the Yes campaign

Amar Singh and Van
Australian of the Year Local Hero award winner Amar Singh says there’s been a “gap” in communicating the importance of the referendum to multicultural communities.

Amar Singh says it’s his responsibility as “a human being” to engage multicultural communities with the Yes campaign.

That’s why he’s begun a two-month 25,000 kilometre round-trip journey from Sydney to Darwin.

Mr Singh won the 2023 Australian of the Year Local Hero award for his work with his charity Turbans 4 Australia, a Sikh-led assistance organisation that delivers food and aid to vulnerable people across western Sydney.


Amar Singh says it’s his responsibility as “a human being” to engage multicultural communities with the Yes campaign.

That’s why he’s begun a two-month 25,000 kilometre round-trip journey from Sydney to Darwin.

Mr Singh won the 2023 Australian of the Year Local Hero award for his work with his charity Turbans 4 Australia, a Sikh-led assistance organisation that delivers food and aid to vulnerable people across western Sydney.

Speaking with The Drum from Mount Isa, Mr Singh says the Voice to Parliament Referendum is a simple decision — a decision based on “fairness”.

“Many migrants come from backgrounds where they might be persecuted for having a political opinion, but Australia is a fair country and you’re allowed to think and say what you like,” he says.

“Coming from a multicultural religious and ethnic background, the referendum is a great way to get our whole country on the same level.”

Mr Singh believes the Yes campaign is struggling to communicate the global significance of the referendum to migrant communities.

“I want all diverse communities to be a part of this story, this is a nation-building exercise and it’s something on an international level where we can achieve greater good for our First Nations people, not just nationally but globally as well,” he says.

“I want people to be thinking about that when the time comes to vote.

“As a person and as a human being, you should be asking yourself do you acknowledge the pain and suffering of our First Nations people.”

Mr Singh likens the fear around the referendum to a previous anti-immigration sentiment.

“There has been a gap in information — go back decades and multiculturalism was a new thing — people were scared that migrants were going to take over Australia,” he says.

“Looking at the referendum, there is nothing to be scared of.

“This is a wonderful and very important step in the right direction for our communities to join as one.”

Mr Singh says that a shared collective experience between Australian migrants helps communicate the significance of the referendum.

 

Mr Singh with Yes supporters in Scarness, Queensland.
Mr Singh with Yes supporters in Scarness, Queensland.

“Most migrants have seen the struggle themselves — they’ve landed here with a suitcase and understand that it’s a time to appreciate our First Nations people, whose land we are on,” he says.

“People have seen their own struggles, they know how they came to Australia.

“That is a reason for multicultural communities to stand up and make it better for everyone because if Australia wasn’t accepting of the wonderful refugees and migrants we have, our communities would not be here.”

Grassroots action

CEO of the Islamic College of Brisbane, Ali Kadri, says that one of the communication “pitfalls” when speaking to diverse communities is addressing them as “one homogeneous group”.

He says that grassroots movements, like Mr Singh’s journey, are most effective when engaging with his community in south east Queensland.

“I’m seeing in my community quite a lot of ignorance towards the referendum and a lack of awareness of why a Voice to Parliament will help First Nations people.”

Mr Kadri also intends to vote Yes and says the “important message” of the campaign is communicating Australia’s history to migrant communities.

“We are on Indigenous land, we have come to this country seeking a better life, and we owe it to people who have been custodians of this land for thousands of years to do our bit in making sure that we not only correct the historical injustice but build a cohesive nation which has its roots in its Indigenous identity,” Mr Kadri says.

“I think that is an obligation on every migrant, no matter where we come from, no matter which background we are from. And I think it’s important that we acknowledge it.”

“Dialogue and grassroots movements are our best tools to informing people from all backgrounds about the referendum.”

Doing your research

Director of the Centre of Indigenous Training Wesley Aird says that all Australians need “good conversations” before they “make up their mind”.

“This is a vote for every single Australian and about how it effects their lives,” he says.

“When I hear that it’s the right thing to do by Aboriginal people, I worry about that, everybody should be thinking about what it means to them as individuals, as Australians, in a really complex society.

“Australia’s one of the greatest places in the world for bringing people in, with waves of migration, the most important thing here is that people vote because they’ve done their research.”

 

Amar Singh and Van
Amar Singh is embarking on a tour of Australia in a bid to raise awareness among culturally-diverse communities of the Voice referendum and to promote the Yes vote. Picture: Jonathan Ng

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