History of the Sikh Society in South Australia


In 1978 a handful of Sikh families in South Australia were brought together by a common desire to have Parkash on a regular basis. S Joginder Singh offered to bring the Granth Sahib and conducted the religious ceremony. The families met once per month in individual homes, using taped Shabads for Kirtan. These simple one hour ceremonies marked the beginning of what would become the Sikh Society of South Australia (SSSA). 

Within two years an arrangement was made with the North Adelaide Primary School to regularly use the school hall. Gurpurbs were celebrated with langgar, sporting and cultural events were introduced and Punjabi language classes were held with varying degrees of regularity and success.


Due to the arrival and initiative of S. Daya Singh Dhaliwal a constitution was developed and formally registered with Corporate Affairs and the Sikh Society of South Australia Incorporated was born. Taped Shabads were abandoned in favour of live Kirtan conducted by S. Daya Singh Dhaliwal.

Later, Dr Harbans Singh Gill and Parveen Squires moved to broaden the base of Kirtan by involving female members, children and the Sangat as a whole. This has been extremely successful and today many willing and talented people can do Kirtan.

1983 - 1986

1983 saw the first Annual Dinner of the SSSA, and this marked the beginning of its contact with the Australian Community as a whole. The Jubilee year of 1986 saw the first SSSA Dinner and Dance at which other ethnic organisations contributed cultural items. In the same year Melbourne Sikh organisations delighted the Adelaide contingent with a superb bhangra performance.  Sporting activities increased with field hockey, golf and netball teams. The publicity and friendship inspired by these activities increased the SSSA's circle of friends and led to the Australian Community having a better understanding of Sikhs.

1987 - 1988

Acquiring our own building in late 1987 marked a milestone in the history of the SSSA. Guru Nanak's birthday celebration was the first event held on 15 November 1987. Members donated everything from kitchen utensils to carpets and money for construction and beautification of the building and grounds. The Gurdwara on Hampstead Road, Northfield on 2 April, 1988

Content for 1978 to 1988 taken from Ajmer Singh Randhawa's speech at the opening of the Hampstead Road Gurdwara.

Messages and Speeches from the 1988 Hampstead Road Gurdwara Opening

Message from John C. Bannon (SA Premier)

Message From The Hon. J.C. Bannon, MP, for the Sikh Society of S.A. Inc.

Friday, March 4, 1988

I am honoured that you have asked me to contribute to the celebrations surrounding the opening of your Gurudwara at Northfield by Sant Amar Singh Ji.

This most important milestone in the establishment of your society in South Australia is welcomed by all people who recognise the true freedoms which operate within our community.

In South Australia the Sikh community, along with all nationalities and religious groups, has the right - and the encouragement - to foster and observe its traditions.

South Australia has a proud record of multicutural achievements - a record which has been made possible by the close and continuing co-operation of all community groups.

The essence of our multiculturalism is represented by your community, where your traditions and cultures remain intact while your community and business achievements complement our broader society.

I am most pleased on this special occasion to congratulate the Sikh society on the opening of the Gurudwara. My best wishes for your society's continuing contribution to South Australia.



Message from C.J. Sumner (Ethnic Affairs Minister)

Message to the Sikh Society of South Australia on the Opening of the Gurudwara

It gives me great pleasure to have this opportunity to congratulate the Sikh community of the opening of your Gurudwara.

This significant event is a cause for celebration, not only for the Sikh community, but for the wider community as well, who share a commitment to a democratic, tolerant and multicultural society.

Our State is unique in that it was found as a free State with a proclamation which embodies the principles of freedom we hold so dearly.

From the beginning, settlers to South Australia came because they wanted to, not because they were forced.

And the vital, democratic and open society we enjoy here has been greatly enriched by all the members of our ethnic communities who have chosen to make South Australia their home.

The South Australian Government remains strongly committed to the policy of multiculturalism, a policy which guarantees all South Australians, regardless of background, have the opportunity to contribute towards our State's future.

This year marks Australia's bicentenary. It is an appropriate time to recognise that we are all "new" Australians to some extent, who can, by working together, create a stable and prosperous future for our country into the 21st Century. The contribution of members of our ethnic communities will be central to this.

The opening of the Gurudwara enhances the culture and traditions of the Sikh community and enriches the whole community because of this.

Again, let me congratulate your community of the opening of the Gurudwara, and please accept my best wishes for your community's continuing success.



Message from John Olsen (SA Liberal Party Leader)

I congratulate the South Australian Sikh community on the opening of the Sikh Gurudwara.

I know this is an historic occasion for your community and represents a very important milestone.

Our society here in Australia prides itself on freedom of religion and expression and provides an environment where traditional customs and ceremonies can be maintained and nurtured.

Not only do they reinforce a 'sense of identity' but they serve to educate other Australians who may be unfamiliar with lifestyles outside our shores.

My best wishes to all those attending this historic ceremony.



Message from R.J. Norton (JP, Mayor of Enfield)

April 1988

Dear Sir,

I take this opportunity to welcome the SIKH SOCIETY OF S.A., into our City of Enfield and do most sincerely offer congratulations on your acquisition of the property at Glenburnie Avenue, Northfield, and its subsequent conversion to a Sikh Gurudwara which is to be officially opened on the 2nd April , 1988, by Sant Amar Singh Ji. I also will have much pleasure in attending your opening service on that day.

The City of Enfield as is so with many of our cities, is a multicultural society, made up of people from all parts of the world, who bring with them their cultures, crafts, religions and colourful ways of life. This is a true demonstration of the democratic freedom of this country and its positive outlook to multiculturalism.

I therefore commend you on your initiative and extend a hand of friendship and welcome to our City and may your association with us be long and fruitful.



Message from David Page (State Director, DILGEA)

Message for the Souvenir Program for the Opening of the Sikh Gurdwara in Adelaide on 2 April 1988

I share with you the joy of your achievement in providing a spiritual and cultural home for the 600 or so members of South Australia's Sikh Community. The Gurdwara symbolises your proud determination to preserve and develop in an Australian context your religion, language and traditions. Your faith emphasises tolerance, brotherhood, peace, optimism, hope and equality of all men and women. These values are consistent with those that the Australian Government seeks to promote through its multicultural policies and programs. So, just as the gurdwara will enrich your daily lives, it also stands as an adornment to our multicultural society. In the Bicentennial Year, the Gurdwara adds a new dimension to Australians understanding of themselves.




Swaran Khera

Waheguru ji Ka Khalsa

Waheguru ji Ki Fateh

I feel honoured to be asked to write a message for this souvenir programme - the first to be produced by the South Australian Sikh Association.

In the almost nine years of my stay here in Adelaide, I have seen our community grow considerably. Almost all of us in the community, I think, understand and appreciate the tremendous advantages we enjoy here compared to the countries we have left behind. In a growing community there are bound to be differences of opinions and aspirations - but if we consider the common binding views - these far outweigh the differences. In the past some minor differences, although important on their own, have been made to blow up and cloud the common goals. However, as I see, we have allowed the better judgements to prevail. Our common binding spirit is evidence in the formation of our association, acquisition of the Gurdwara and the holding of the current religious and social activities. I hope this harmony is maintained and strengthened even further in the future. It is up to us all - united we stand.

We in Adelaide are fortunate that we have strong interstate ties especially with Melbourne Sikh community - this past and present support gives us the comfort of greater strength. We all appreciate this and feel proud of them.

As we have settled in this beautiful country, let us also strive to inculcate into ourselves that this is our country now - we are as good Australians as anybody else, irrespective of their ethnicity. It is to this country we owe our loyalty.

It is better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not.

My best wishes to all.

Sat Sri Akal.


Mahanbir Singh Grewal

In a Nutshell

Sikhism is essentially a practical religion and a way of life. It proclaims human equality, futility of caste, sex and race prejudice, fruitlessness of idol-worship and discredits claims to God-ship. It lays stress on the worship of ONE GOD and the living of a high spiritual life based on the principles laid down, and practically demonstrated, by the Gurus in their lives on this earth.

I hope that the above account of Sikhism in summary is useful to many Australians who may not have heard or known about Sikhs.

I take this opportunity to congratulate all the members of the Sikh Society on the acquisition of the Gurudwara in Adelaide.

May 'WAHEGURU' guide us to make this Gurudwara a great and exemplary success in contributing to the needs of Sikhs in Adelaide for generations to come and in fostering excellent fellowship and cordial relations with all other members of the multicultural society in Australia.

Mahanbir Singh Grewal

18 March 1988

Ajmer Singh Randhawa

Looking Back and Ahead

Not so long ago, in 1978, a handful of Sikh families were brought together by a common desire to have parkash on a regular basis. They were fortunate to have S Joginder Singh in their midst who very graciously consented to do the service of bringing the Granth Sahib, and conducting the whole religious ceremony. Meeting once a month in individual homes, and using taped shabads for kirtan, the simple and short one hour ceremonies marked the humble beginnings of the Sikh Society.

Within two years, arrangement was made with the North Adelaide Primary School to use their school hall on a regular basis. Gurpurbs were celerated with langar, sporting and cultural items introduced into the programme, and Punjabi classes held with varying degrees of regularity, and success.

In 1981 the arrival and initiative of S. Daya Singh Dhaliwal saw a number of meetings take place as a result of which the organisation was endowed with a constitution and formally registered with the Corporate Affairs, as the Sikh Society of South Australia Incorporated. It was also the year which farewelled the taped shabads in preference to live kirtan by S. Daya Singh Dhaliwal. Later Dr Harbans Singh Gill, and Parveen Squires were to spearhead the movement to broaden the base of kirtan by involving lady members, children and the sangat as a whole. In this they have been eminently successful and are to be commended for their efforts. Today we have many willing and talented people who can do kirtan. The Punjabi classes are again in operation under the care of S. Balwant Singh.

1983 saw the first Annual Dinner of the Sikh Society. It was a significant event in that it marked the beginning of its contact with the Australian Community as a whole, and the government agencies. This social and cultural base was broadened even further in 1986. The Jubilee Year saw the first Sikh Society Dinner and Dance to which other ethnic organisations were invited to contribute cultural items. It was also the year in which we made contact with our sister city of Melbourne, and Sikh organisations there who delighted the Adelaidians with their superb performance of bhangra. Since then such events have become popular and regular items on the calendar. The sporting activities have increased considerably - there being a shield for hockey tournament, and a trophy for golf for aspiring contenders. The publicity generated by such events has been mutually beneficial; the Sikh Society's circle of friends has increased immensely, and the Australian Community has a better understanding of Sikhs.

In 1987 the Sikh Society's involvement with the Heer case highlighted some alarming inaccuracies, and gaps in the Australian government's information about Sikhs. We have taken the necessary steps to have this remedied but are meeting with a lot of indifference, and resistance. The policy of multiculturalism does not amount to much if the government is not prepared to learn something about the communities that form such an essential part of that policy. One of our priorities ought to be to persevere in establishing and maintaining a constructive dialogue with the government on such issues.

The acquisition of our own building marks yet another milestone in the history of the Sikh Society. The present premises were purchased in the latter half of 1987, with our first function there being Guru Nanak's birthday on 15 November. The gurdwara is central to the Sikh way of life. It is a unifying force that brings us together to give thanks for our joys and good fortune; to ask for strength and fortitude to bear our pains and sorrows; to meet new people and renew old acquaintances; to learn some new skills, kirtan, Punjabi, and parkash; and to perform some useful service for the house of God and the Community. More importantly, however, it has an infinite capacity to tap the innate generosity of its followers. Already members have donated from kitchen utensils to carpets, and money for construction and beautification of the building and grounds. We hope that this trend will continue and pick up considerably. There is still a great deal to be done and we need all the financial assistance that we can get.

The best resource that any community can have are its people; people who are committed and dedicated; people who are willing to sacrifice time and effort; people who talk less and do more; people who are tolerant of human frailties and are prepared to work as a team; and people who are prepared to put cause and long term objectives above personality. Fortunately, the Sikh Society is blessed with many such people, and it is time they came forward and accepted positions of responsibility.

I would like to thank S. Harbans Singh Randhawa and his sub-committee for their untiring efforts in planning this very extended programme, and I trust that our visitors will carry happy and fond memories of their stay and involvement with us. May the Guru bless you all with a very happy and prosperous Vaisakhi.


Dya Singh Dhaliwal

I congratulate the Sikh Society of South Australia on the progress it has made over the years towards integration with other communities in South Australia and the establishment of the Adelaide Gurdwara. May it make further progress in the furtherance and propagation of Sikhism and unification of Sikhs of not only South Australia but Australia itself.

It is with mixed feelings that I view the last six years (from the inception of the Sikh Society of South Australia) of my life. It has been a learning experience in human relationship; in dealing with fellow Sikhs and non-Sikhs who played some part in the formulation and affairs of the society. I experienced and saw in others the whole range of human emotions like love, hate, anger, gratefulness, vindictiveness, jealousy, bitchiness, appreciation, etc. on a scale I had never known before.

Without doubt I owe a great deal to Sardar Joginder Singh of Adelaide (formerly from Malaysia) who was not only a great influence in my teen (informative) years in Malaysia but had played an important role in the small part I have had the honour to play in the inception and early years of the society. His views, advice and guidance have always been based on Gurmat one path, never a two-way bet. It takes a Sikh of a very high moral standing to preach and practice Gurmat, more so in a Western Country.

The decay within us is due to our Two-Way Bet policy. This applies from grass-roots (for example our own S.S.S.A.) to the highest-most echelons of our Quom (Nation). We have taken it for granted that bending and breaking the original Sikh doctrines as handed down by our gurus is the norm. I am myself guilty of that sin. The reason I have mentioned this would be obvious to anyone with even a vague concept of Sikhism and what a Sikh is, compared to what Sikhism has become and what the average Sikh is in reality.

On being asked to write a short note as the first secretary of the S.S.S.A. for this souvenir magazine commemorating the establishment of the Adelaide Gurdwara I remembered the very first meeting of the constitutional committee which had the huge quandary and took a great deal of time in deciding (for membership purposes) who is a Sikh! We could not possibly have taken the definition straight out of the Rehatnama. We would barely have had any members!!!

It is not the fact that we have moved so far from the true teachings of our gurus that hurts. It is the fact that a great many of us accept what most of us are as being the norm that hurts.

Just like English-speaking western children are convinced that Jesus Christ was either British or an American, a great many children and youngsters of Sikh lineage now strongly believe that a Sikh is clean-shaven; probably says some prayers in a strange tongue; consumes liquor; maybe even smokes; puts on a turban or ties a handkerchief on this head every Sunday to go to a Sikh church called a Gurdwara and joins in a congregation which listens to some strange sounding hymns and gets something sweet to eat at the end, even vegetarian food and a cup of spiced tea occasionally. Some of these children and youngsters even get coaxed by their parents to learn a few words of the foreign tongue and even learn to sing the hymns! In fact, rather than teaching our children Punjabi we even try and insist that we should try and conduct most of our service and announcements in English! Is this the Sikhism we wish to pass on to our children? If we are, then we are helping destroy it!

The society has made great progress from its humble beginnings six years ago. It can now boast a Gurdwara, weekly functions with live Kirtan and the makings of a Punjabi school. Hopefully the establishment of the Gurdwara will lead us closer to the true Sikhism. The Sikhism which is everyday living which engulfs our whole life on a daily basis, not the part-time religion we now have a tendency to follow and are passing on to our children.

A number of former part-time Sikhs took the giant step of partaking of amrit and becoming Amrit-Dhari Sikhs, (members of the Khalsa brotherhood) when the Babbar-Khalsa group visited us in 1986. I know a few others who are preparing to do the same as soon as the next opportunity arises. I congratulate them on their commitment and courage. I will hope and pray to Waheguru that more of us will make this commitment because this the one single most important objective of a Sikh Society and the establishment of a Gurdwara.

I will also hope and pray that those of us who take for granted the part-time Sikhism that we follow and are fully entitled to do so realise that it is part-time Sikhism and not try and enforce that as the norm on the rest of the community and not teach that to our children as being the norm.

Once again I wish the Sikh Society of South Australia all the best in the future and may common-sense, goodwill and unity reign especially where the Adelaide Gurdwara affairs are concerned. May Adelaide set the example for all Sikhs of how a Gurdwara should be run and how to live in harmony with other communities without losing our own identity; how to integrate and not become assimilated.

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa!

Waheguru ji Ki Fateh!


Harbans Singh Randhawa

18 March 1988

556 Glynburn Road BURNSIDE 5066

I consider it a great privilege to be asked to write a few words for the Gurduwara Opening Souvenir.

Each and every member of the Adelaide Sikh Sangat must be congratulated for their efforts in making the Adelaide Sikh Gurdwara a reality. Since my first arrival in Australia in 1959, when there were only a small number of Sikhs, it became my wish for our Sikh Sangat to grow to sufficient numbers to be able to have our own Gurduwaras. I now see my wish being fulfilled by the establishment of Sikh Gurduwaras in nearly every capital city in Australia. Our special thanks to Sant Amar Singh Ji for gracing the occasion of our Gurduwara Opening by his presence.

We welcome all overseas and interstate delegates and visitors and pray you will have an enjoyable stay and safe return to your respective homes.

It is my wish that our interstate Sikh Brethren would carry on to organise similar functions periodically to maintain contact and dialogue between our respective communities. The Youth who are our future should be encouraged to practice our Sikh religion and maintain our Sikh culture.

As Chairman of the Wesakhi Organising Committee I would like to thank the members of my committee: Mahanbir & Balbir Grewal, Daya & Jessie Dhaliwal, Vasdev Pusari, Darshan Sidhu and Jessie Randhawa for their excellent efforts in making this function possible.

Yours faithfully

Wahe - Guru - Ji - Ka - Khalsa

Wahe - Guru - Ji - Ki - Fateh