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Sikhs capture the spirit of the land


It is said that the first Indian had come to Australia as part of Captain Cook's ship (there is no records though), the first settlers in Australia. Before roads and road transport was developed, many Indians had come to Australia to run Camel trains. These brave Indians were called Afghans and kept the communication and supply line open between Melbourne and the center of Australia. They would transport goods and mail over Camel backs in the desert. There is no descendent of these Afghans that I could get in touch with. Some of the earliest Punjabi arrivals in Australia included Sardar Beer Singh, Johal who came in 1895 and Sardar Narain Singh Heyer, who arrived in 1898. Many Punjabis took part in the rush for gold on the Victorian fields while numbers of Muslims from North Western Punjab region worked as camel drivers in the Central Australian desert.
 
More Indians came to Australia more than fifty years ago while both Australia and India were British colonies. These enterprising Sikhs came to work on the Banana Plantations in Southern Queensland. Today a large number of them live in the town of Wolgoolga (roughly half way between Sydney and Brisbane on the highway. These people have their own Banana Farms and are quite rich. Their riches have come by hard work. There are two Sikh temples in Wolgoolga. One of them even has a Museum on Sikhism. A large number of British and Anglo Indians who born in India migrated to Australia after 1947. These British citizens decided to settle in Australia in large numbers but are still counted as 'Indian' Nationals in the Census. You will be surprised to find that a full blooded Australian looking old man will whisper to you in Hindi or Urdu. The third wave of Indians came about 25 years ago, just after Australia abandoned its Whites Only policy. Yes, this is a little known fact that Australia until recently was a whites only country. This policy was abolished and many Teachers and Doctors came to settle in Australia. Another big influx began with the silicon chi revolution. Large number of Indian Computer Software professional started arriving in Australia from 1976 onwards. Today it is hard to go to an IT shop and not find a few Indians working there. When a military coupe took place in Fiji almost a decade ago and

Today there is a large Fiji Indian population in Australia who call Australia there home. These Fiji Indians have changed the face of Indian Australia. While most earlier Indian migration was that of educated professionals, these new Fiji Indians were more dynamic and business going. Their arrival has increased the services enjoyed by all Indians.

The current wave of Indian migration is that of Engineers, tool makers from India, Gujrati business families from Africa and second level relatives of settled Indians. Most Gujrati families go into business. Engineers and Tool Makers, most of them, find a dead end of job. Being as enterprising as many Indians are, they either go back to College and study programming to land a decent and stable job. Others are venturing into their own businesses. September,98 A new wave of Indian immigrants has hit Australia. Starved of government funding, Australian education institutes are desperately recruiting full fee paying overseas students. Many universities have permanent representatives stationed in India and other Asian countries. Their efforts have been rewarded and a new influx of Indian students is entering Australia. It is estimated that Canberra University which is one of about two dozen universities is recruiting about 500 students every year for last four years. Many regional universities like University of Ballarratt have opened campus in Sydney to cater to these foreign students. Many of these students have paid large sums of fees and are looking for work to support themselves. This has started the transformation the working class. In 1986 a flux of non-skilled Indian immigrants meant that you could see white Australians being replaced by Indians in cleaning jobs.

 In 1998 we have started seeing the replacement of counter staff and chefs at McDonalds and other places by young, bright and attentive Indian students. I guess the plight of Indian students in Australia is that of Indian student migration to USA during the 1970's. We will see many of these young boys becoming future millionaires in Australia in the year 2010 and beyond.

 However, there are also many thousands of Punjabi-speaking students studying in Australia at any given time, who have come from India and Pakistan for higher education. The Punjabi community living in Australia is mostly a young and self-supporting community.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 87% of Punjabis residing in Australia are aged under 50 and over 83% of the population are proficient in English.

As well as Sikhs, the community includes many Muslims, Hindus and a small number of Christians.

One of the more famous communities is the one located at Woolgoolga, on the north coast of New South Wales, which is made up of descendants of Sikh plantation workers.

Punjabis have a vibrant culture, elements of which are infiltrating contemporary western music. The pulsating Bhangra music, once restricted to celebrate the harvest throughout Northern India, is now making its presence felt in dance clubs around the world. Bhangra music frequently tops the charts in the United Kingdom, Canada and the South East Asia.


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