Dongara’s Sikh heritage on display with historic documents sent to Perth
A budding relationship between WA’s Sikh community and the town of Dongara continues to grow with historic journals, some of the earliest signs of Australia’s Sikh history, going on display in Perth.
The Irwin Districts Historical Society (IDHS) has loaned two bookkeeping journals which belonged by Sojan Singh, a Sikh man who owned a shop in Dongara between the 1920s and 1940s, to the Sikh Association of WA (SAWA).
Volunteer SAWA historian Tarun Preet Singh said the books may be some of the earliest records of work written in Gurmukhi, the written script of the Punjabi language, from Australia and possibly outside India.
He said the books provided a powerful connection to the early history of Australia for Sikhs.
“They (Sikhs) feel very proud and connected to the local community, to know they were here 100 years ago,” he said.
“Its very motivating and inspirational; we feel like proud Australians.”
A group of almost 200 Sikhs visited Dongara in October last year to learn about the town’s Sikh heritage.
Dongara had a community of Sikhs during the first half of the 20th century, with 20 Sikhs living in the town according to the 1920 Census.
As the community left, however, their local history was forgotten.
That is until the ledgers were found by local historians, who received help with translating the documents from SAWA.
Since then, the IDHS and SAWA have worked together to dig deeper into the town’s Sikh link and the two ledgers have been digitised so researchers can study them online.
Dongara historian Bruce Baskerville said it had been a pleasure to help the Sikh community find these documents and share them.
“They were really keen to have them and to have an exhibition for them,” he said.
According to the 2021 Census, 18,583 Sikhs live in WA, most of which are in Perth.
The ledgers will be on display at the SAWA Gurudwara in Cannington on March 5 and at the Gurudwara in Bennett Springs on March 12.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails