Sunday, March 7, 2021

Yes, Minister

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Jasvinder Sidhu may be young and unassuming, but he’s a powerful community role model

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Jasvinder Sidhu, recently appointed Ministerial Advisor to the newly elected Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews says he is in the role because he has been able to demonstrate an ability to mobilise and channel fresh ideas and initiatives.

“I have always held democratic socialist beliefs that are similar to Labor objectives,” Sidhu says. “Since I migrated to Australia I have lived in suburbs that were predominantly safe Labor seats, it was almost a natural progression for me to get involved with the Labor party,” he says explaining his first foray into local politics.

A lecturer by profession, Jasvinder Sidhu comes across as calm and poised in his favoured business suit, always smiling despite the onerous demands of his dual role. Currently working at RMIT University, Sidhu holds 10 years of teaching experience and three Masters qualifications. In March 2014 he was appointed as an advisor to Daniel Andrews, who was then the Leader of Opposition. In his role as campaign director for Tarneit, where Labor won with a 16 per cent margin, Sidhu was very much a part of the campaign trail that led the opposition to victory in the recent State elections in Victoria.

Sidhu now divides his time between teaching Accounting and assisting Premier Daniel Andrews in dealing with the challenges of party politics and the difficulties of developing policy and implementing change under the blinding glare of 24-hour media reports. Appointed as the Ministerial Advisor to the Premier of Victoria, his role includes providing advice on multicultural affairs as well as being advisor to Adem Somyurek, Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade. Sidhu’s well-honed research and communications skills, from his academic background will hold him in good stead in the political sphere.

Originally from Ludhiana in Punjab, Jasvinder Sidhu came to Australia in 2005 as a student. “I became a lecturer at the age of 23 but decided to study further and move to Australia. I acquired multiple qualifications to expedite my settlement and aid the PR process,” Sidhu answers candidly when asked about his many degrees that include Masters in Computer Applications, Commerce, Professional Accounting, Certificate in Tertiary Teaching and Learning as well as a current PhD in intra-professional conflicts.

Jasvinder Sidhu with Indian Consul General in Melbourne Manika Jain, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and businessman Amanjot Bedi

“Around 2007 I was teaching as a lecturer at Central Queensland University and I remember there was a huge wave of Indian students that chose to study in Australia,” Sidhu says. “A couple of years later there were attacks on Indian students that caused a furore. A lot of students approached me for help at that time and the local Gurudwara Sahib (Sikh temple) also required my assistance with community welfare placements. I started encouraging students to volunteer – to pick up mobility-impaired seniors from their homes and drive them to the Gurudwara on Wednesdays. That is how I started getting involved with the student community, to begin with, and gradually with the larger community,” says Sidhu as he shares his early experiences.

Jasvinder Sidhu is the Founder and Secretary of the Australia India Welfare and Cultural Society (AIWCS) that has established and supports 12 breakfast clubs in Wyndham, Noble Park, Preston, Roxburgh Park and Collingwood. These clubs ensure that disadvantaged and marginalised school children are provided with breakfast on a near daily basis. According to Sidhu, Premier Andrews has subsequently extended a similar Government operated program to disadvantaged schools as part of Labor’s education policy.

Sidhu also works with homeless children through Open Family Australia and the Youth Resource Centre in Wyndham, and is involved with the Elders Support Program (ESP) supported by the Tarneit Sikh temple. He is the founder and Secretary of Jagriti, a network of different agencies and individuals who provide support to victims of family violence in the Indian community. Jagriti recently won a grant of $150,000 in partnership with Cohealth.

When asked about his opinion on the increase in reporting of domestic violence within the local Indian community, Sidhu says, “I do not think domestic violence is as rampant within the Indian community in Melbourne as some people make it out to be. However, there are certainly several cases of family violence that require support and assistance. I think the solutions that are available are not always appropriate and a more culturally sensitive approach is required.”

Young and unassuming by nature, Jasvinder Sidhu has an entire term ahead of him to meet advisory timelines and grasp the pace and scale of his new part time role. As a contributor to various media, he has his eye on what makes the community pulse, as well as many plans for its improvement, particularly for the Indian community in Melbourne.

“I believe that the new wave of Indian migrants are very progressive in thinking, as a result we will continue to move upwards and the future of Indian community in Australia is very bright,” Sidhu says.

Amen to that.

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Preeti Jabbal
Preeti Jabbal
Preeti is the Melbourne Coordinator of Indian Link.

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