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Who was Siva Singh? Uncovering the early Sikh settler who fought the White Australia policy


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Who was Siva Singh? Uncovering the early Sikh settler who fought the White Australia policy

bush diwan pic.jpg

Gathering of Sikhs on Siva Singh's property in 1920 for the first full Australian reading of the 'Akhand Path'. Credit: Supplied by Ms Gill.


The little-known story of a Punjabi Sikh migrant who stood up to the racist White Australia policy in the early 1900s is the inspiration for an ambitious exhibition, Bush Diwan, that’s set to tour the country. The first stop is Benalla Art Gallery in regional Victoria.

  • Siva Singh was an early 20th century Benalla resident, Sikh community leader and civil rights campaigner
  • Mr Singh’s story is central to the ‘Bush Diwan’ exhibition currently showing in regional Victoria
  • ‘Stories of migration and community formation are laden with struggles and triumphs,’ says exhibition co-curator Amrit Gill
An exhibition in regional Victoria shines a light on little-known moments in Australian migrant history and brings together artists from the fastest-growing South Asian communities in the country.
Called Bush Diwan, the exhibition is currently on display at Benalla Art Gallery, which is located just over 200 kilometres northeast of Melbourne.
The setting of Benalla is fitting, as it was once the home of Siva Singh, whose story of struggle and triumph is symbolic of the migrant experience.
"Siva Singh was a Punjabi Sikh migrant who came to Benalla, Victoria, in the 1890s and he was someone who brought together a gathering of Sikhs on his property in 1920 for the diwan, the first full Australian reading of the 'Akhand Path’ - a prayer ceremony for Sikhs,” says Amrit Gill, the co-curator of the exhibition.
Ms Gill explains that the Punjabi word 'diwan' refers to a gathering that plays a role in connecting people and place.
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