Harinder Kaur OAM: King’s Birthday Honours 2024

Sydney’s Harinder Kaur has been recognised for her service to the community through social welfare organisations

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“Every day, I feel like I was chosen to do this work,” says Harinder Kaur of Glenwood, NSW, reacting to the news of being bestowed with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her social welfare activities.

Founder and CEO of the Harman Foundation, Kaur has been an active and visible member of the Indian diaspora in the state over the past three decades. Since 2013, she has worked tirelessly to help vulnerable members of the community – from supporting and sheltering victims of domestic violence to educating the perpetrators, from distributing food hampers for those in need to conducting seminars for spreading awareness about physical and mental health.

Harinder Kaur OAM Harman Foundation 2024
Harinder Kaur, CEO of the Harman Foundation (Source: Supplied)

As an education officer in the state’s Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), Harinder Kaur OAM had always been in direct contact with issues like domestic abuse, misuse of alcohol and drugs, relationship, and children’s issues etc. Yet it was the tragic death of her eldest son Harmanpreet Singh in a car accident in 2012 that led her to find community service as her true spiritual calling.

A year after her son’s death, Harinder started the Harman Foundation along with her husband Maninder Singh as a means of coping with her grief. She realised quickly that there were many in the community who were suffering just like her. Combining her expertise of the subject, Harinder and her husband started extending their support to multicultural groups, particularly those from the South Asian community who were falling through the gaps in state-funded support because of barriers of language, eligibility or access and even cultural differences which made problems more complex.

Harinder Kaur with Husband Maninder Singh 2024
Harinder Kaur with husband Maninder Singh (Source: Supplied)

Cognizant of the recent wave of domestic violence cases making it a national agenda, Kaur points out that issues coming out of the South Asian community are more complex. “There are cultural barriers, social-stigma issues, traditions of dowry, conditioning of tolerance etc, combined with a lack of knowledge about rights and responsibilities,” she says, explaining that a large part of the Foundation’s role is to educate all concerned parties and as much as possible, prevent rather than cure the issue.

Harinder Kaur OAM is also advocating for making information readily available for multicultural groups and those coming to Australia on temporary visas. “I feel making the information about roles, rights and responsibilities accessible can help to mitigate many issues,” she says. “We always try for keeping the families together. It’s painful to see children suffer because of domestic issues. It can become a vicious circle and we must always try to break the cycle of substance abuse etc. We work with the perpetrators too and we encourage them to seek help.”

She adds, “Healing can be complex, and we try to educate and guide. However, in cases of last resort where victims – who are largely women – need to be evacuated for safety, we do have the Her House facility where we are able to provide temporary shelter. There is also a 24-hour helpline for those seeking support.”

Harinder Kaur Harman Foundation
“To educate, and to guide” (Source: Supplied)

Over the years, Kaur estimates Harman Foundation’s services have helped more than 500 families with domestic and family violence issues, provided shelter in Her House to more than 75 individuals seeking temporary respite, and distributed more than 20,000 food hampers to those in need.

Harinder Kaur takes pride in the efforts of the 200-odd volunteers working with the Harman Foundation over the years which she estimates equates to adding more than $8.3 million to the Australian economy.

“It is the responsibility of everyone to build a more compassionate world,” she notes. “It should be everyone’s business to help others. It’s a duty I surrendered to, and it is what keeps me going.”

Harinder OAM Harman Foundation 2024
(Source: Supplied)

For her efforts, she has been the recipient of many awards over the years, including the Woman of the Year by Blacktown City Council (2021), Riverstone Local Woman of the Year (2019), Hindu Council of Australia Award (2019) and Dedication and Extraordinary Work Award by Indian Women Cultural Association of Australia Inc (2018).

The King’s Birthday Honour, however, is truly special.

“This has come as a surprise; it’s a very big honour and privilege. It feels wonderful to be recognised and acknowledged,” Harinder Kaur OAM says expressing hope that the award will help bring their work more recognition and funding too to keep it going.

READ ALSO: Women only: Indian links in the King’s Birthday Honours List 2024

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