“I was giddy with excitement and asked my wife Siromani to read the letter to me. I could not believe that I was one of the recipients of the Australia Day Honours,” Armogam Murgan shares excitedly.
“I feel incredibly honoured to receive this recognition,” says the 75-year old OAM recipient. His excitement is palpable as his wife, Siromani Naidu, weighs in on how childlike he was upon receiving the letter.
Hailing from a small village in Fiji, Armogam arrived in Australia with a head full of dreams to make a better life for himself and his late first wife Lakshmi.
A holiday to New Zealand followed by a visit to Australia, inspired the then 32-year-old Armogam to move to Australia in search of building a life in the country.
“It was 1975 and there weren’t as many people from Fiji or India as there are now. It was all too new for us but I was determined to make this life work for us,” he recalls. “It gave me great pleasure in being part of the Indian diaspora in a new country,” he muses.
His passion for community service – something he had done in Fiji as well – and his urge to connect with the Indian community sparked an idea to form the Shri Sanatan Dharam Sabha of New South Wales in 1975.
He founded the Sabha to enable the Indian community in Australia to meet, socialise and gather for religious ceremonies.
Every Friday, the 20-odd members would gather in one of the members’ home for a satsang and often would get together for celebrating community events, he tells Indian Link. In addition to his day job at Port Botany Terminal as a supervisor, Armogam made time to teach young students Hindi at the Sabha each Sunday. He was also the culture teacher there.
This small initiative has grown manifold in scale.
The Sabha is now 2000+ members strong. As the founder of the Sabha, Armogam has always nurtured a dream to build a temple in NSW for the Indian community.
Thus came about the Shree Ram Krishna Temple about five years ago situated in a sprawling 3-acre land in Austral.
The never-ending desire to give back to the community has resulted in Armogam founding several community groups like the Satyam Shivam Sundaram Society of NSW, Sangam Society and the Indian Senior Citizens of NSW.
The Satyam Shivam Sundaram Society of NSW, according to Armogam, has especially played a vital role in many community changes.
Besides being a platform to preserve the Indian culture, the group has helped raised funds for those in need.
“We have been able to assist the Blind Society, providing doctors to patients in need, especially those with heart conditions,” he says. They have even extended their services to poor and disaster-stricken communities in Fiji.
Another noteworthy contribution of Armogam is being actively involved in forming Satyam Ghat.
At a picnic with the Satyam Sivam Sundaram members, he witnessed the Moorebank Lake strewn with flowers and waste from last rites of people being performed there.
He wanted to do something about it and helped plan the Satyam Ghat in 2006, which is now a site to conduct religious ceremonies and pay respect to the departed. He and the members meet often to clean up the lake after the rites.
This retired government official has his hands busy as a marriage celebrant and Justice of Peace. He officiates many Hindu civil weddings in the country.
His wife, Siromani Naidu, he says is his greatest support in all he does. “He never had kids but now he has several 100 kids he has lent a hand to over the decades,” she proudly shares.
“Even at this age he is ready to give anyone the support they need – morning, noon or night,” she adds.
Quizzing him on whether he has any time for himself amidst all the activities he is otherwise busy with, he says, “Not really. I have this incredible hunger to help people. I will do so till my very end.”