By Mitchell Clarke
The Officer Sikh temple will receive almost $300,000 in funding as part of a State Government initiative to make multicultural communities stronger.
Multicultural Affairs Minister Ros Spence announced on 14 September that more than $3.5 million will be shared across 36 culturally diverse groups.
More than $1 million will be allocated under the Multicultural Community Infrastructure Fund to 23 multicultural groups, while $2.4 million will be distributed to 13 infrastructure projects as part of the Indian Community Infrastructure Fund.
The Siri Guru Nanak Darbar, also known as the Officer Sikh temple, was successful in obtaining $285,000.
Officer Sikh temple spokesperson Harpreet Singh said the money would be put towards building a sealed carpark at the site.
Over the past two years, the organisation has been successful in receiving about $1 million in funding from both levels of government, non-profits and community members.
“We are doing very positive work and the entire community is appreciating that, and that’s why we’ve been able to secure a lot of funding in the last few years,” Mr Singh explained.
It’s hoped construction on the new carpark could begin as early as mid-November, with Mr Singh stating contracts could be signed in the coming weeks.
“If everything goes well, we could start building the carpark some time in November,” he said.
“It’s a good time to do the construction now, especially when we can’t go to the Gurdwara because of Covid-19 restrictions.”
The pandemic has been particularly difficult for the Sikh community, as many struggle with the lack of access to the site.
“It’s been really difficult. Most of the community members are feeling very frustrated and depressed. The Gurdwara is a place where we get a lot of morale support and strength,” Mr Singh said.
“I often laugh to my friends that we are allowed to go to a bottle shop to get some wine but we can’t go to our temple. I’ve received 50 calls in the last three to four weeks asking when people can come back.”
Despite being unable to operate on site, the Officer Sikh temple has managed to donate a whopping 3000 kilograms of groceries to international students and charities working to support people in need.
Minister Spence said the funding boost would help connect the community to their cultural heritage, adding that it came at an important time.
“We know how important it is for multicultural Victorians to have a space to call their own – and that’s as important now as ever,” Ms Spence said.
“While stay at home restrictions mean we can’t gather in person right now, this funding will help create safe spaces for community members to come together in a Covid-safe way, once we reach the other side.”