Preserving the history of a community is vital for the upkeep of their culture, religion, social and economic life. It defines the identity, values, beliefs as well as the trials and triumphs of a people and serves as a rich lesson for their future generations. The Sikh Heritage Museum of Australia covers it all.
Historians and authors Len Kenna and Crystal Jordan have curated and contributed towards a section of the museum. Crystal and Len have been researching the early history of Indian migrants in Australia for more than 35 years and have published several books on the subject.
Speaking about the Sikh Heritage Museum Crystal Jordan says, “It covers who we are virtually and how we got started and the first arrivals in 1843. Len Kenna adds, “ It starts with the Sikh belief about their creation and goes through the early history of Guru Nanak Ji, it includes some photographs and writing of each of the Gurus and goes on about the conflict with the British and goes on in sequence to the arrival in Australia and finishes in present-day Woolgoolga.”
Crystal Jordan and Len Kenna have researched and written about Indian immigrants from various ethnic backgrounds, be they Hindus, Christians, Muslims or Sikhs. On being asked what inspired them to research the Indian history in Australia, Le tells us, I grew up in Hamilton and a Sikh hawker came to our home and cooked our evening meal and my mother washed his turbans. There were a lot of Sikh hawkers in Hamilton, so basically grew up surrounded by Indians and things Indian.”
Crystal’s father was born in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, India in 1912 and this triggered her interest in Indians. We thus have their contribution to the Sikh Heritage Museum of Australia, which Ken says, “It’s a place of excellence and a place of learning for Australian children as well as Sikh people.”
Mr Satpal Singh of Woolgoolga has been the coordinator of this project which commenced in August last year and was completed on the 12th of April, a day before Baisakhi. Mr Singh says the local people are very proud of what we have achieved and we’ve had a very positive outcome, with several hundred people gathering at the inauguration.”