By Rowan Forster
The driving force behind Officer’s new Sikh temple was bestowed with the honour of being Cardinia Shire’s Citizen of the Year during Saturday’s Australia Day celebrations.
Dr Harpreet Kandra was recognised for his dedication to upholding the Australian values, helping those in need and fostering community spirit.
He joined fellow award winners June Wright, Senior Citizen of the Year, and Meaghan Venables, Young Citizen of the Year, as those who have made admirable contributions to society in the past year.
Dr Kandra told the Gazette it was an “absolute honour” to earn the prestigious accolade.
“I was pretty excited about the award because all of the nominees had such a strong contribution to the community,” he said.
“My expectation was about zero per cent so I got a big surprise when they said my name.
“It is a big thing for the Sikh community, which is doing everything they can with the limited resources they have
“It shows the Sikh values are equal to the Australian values.”
He said the award was not just significant for him, but for multiculturalism as a whole.
“We are humbled that we are considered a part of the Australian community,” he added.
Cardinia Shire Mayor Graeme Moore was full of praise for all of the winners and nominees – thanking them for their commitment and contributions to the municipality.
“We acknowledge and celebrate these outstanding Australians and look forward to continuing to all work together to make our community, and our nation, truly great,” Cr Moore said.
“This year’s Citizen of the Year, Dr Harpreet Kandra was a driving force for the new Sikh temple in Officer, which fosters a sense of community and acceptance, and provides a safe space for personal and spiritual growth.
“Our Senior or the Year, June Wright has been recognised for her lifetime of volunteering in Kooweerup – from Scouts, to RSL and Op Shops.
“Meaghan Venables – a Surf Life Saving volunteer and active award-winning Scout Leader and Committee member has contributed significantly to the safety and wellbeing of our young people and wider community in and around Beaconsfield.”
The nominees for Citizen of the Year were:
• Hardev Singh Cheema
• Dr Harpreet Kandra
• Kirra Kruzicevic
• Ian Pinney
The nominees for Senior Citizen of the Year were:
• Vernon (Tony) Knight
• Robert Porter
• June Wright
The nominees for Young Citizen of the Year were:
• Zacharia Bohemann
• Charlotte Hoareau
• Baxter Stickland
• Meaghan Venables