Understanding India’s Farm Bills 2020

In Blog by Saksham KapoorLeave a Comment

Punjabi Farmer Protests and Advocacy 

The three new national farm bills have caused great alarm with Farmers in Punjab, and as scenes of protest have been televised globally, increasing alarm amongst the Diaspora also. 

YSPN’s focus is primarily on issues concerning our chapters across Australia and New Zealand, but what is clear is that as a first-generation community, we maintain close connections to our families and heritage in Punjab, who are being affected by these bills. We felt a responsibility given our position and capabilities to address these bills appropriately for our audience, and indeed the Global Sikh community. 

We also acknowledge this a very divisive issue about a complicated system that is made up of a variety of underlying factors and vested interests. As Sikhs based in Australia and New Zealand, who are not experts in development economics, India’s political processes, or farming practices in Punjab—and therefore the full implication of these bills—we believed it our duty to become better informed from actual experts on the issues so that we can more precisely direct our advocacy and make a meaningful impact on those affected.  

To properly pursue these objectives, we organised a pre-recorded panel discussion with two expert Indian-based agroeconomists to discuss the current structural issues with farming in Punjab; how these bills were aimed to address these problems; weaknesses that farmers have highlighted that need to be addressed; and fundamental farming practice reform that Punjabi farmers can undertake to greatly increase the value of their crops and land. 

Our aim from delivering this event to you is fact-based exploration of the issues that rationally analyses the issues of the reform agenda holistically and provide better options for the Diaspora to contribute meaningfully to these issues and address the plight of Sikhs, Farmers, and Punjab as a whole. 

Panel Discussion on India’s Farm Bills

The two experts that we engaged with to understand these issues are: 

Professor CSC Sekhar – who is a Professor at the Institute of Economic Growth (IEG) & former Honorary Director of the Agricultural Economics Research Centre, University of Delhi. His research interests include agricultural markets (market structure, price formation, exports, and imports), food security, agricultural growth, rural development, political economy of development and governance. Other interests include applied Econometrics, econometric modelling, WTO issues related to agriculture, Development Economics and Law & Economics. He was a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellow and is a life member of The Indian Econometrics Society (TIES) and Agricultural Economics Research Association (AREA). 

Professor Sukhpal Singh – who is Professor, and Former Chairperson, Centre for Management in Agriculture (CMA), Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Former Director General, Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) Chandigarh, and Former Professor and Head, Agricultural Economic Research Unit (AERU), Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), New Delhi. He has been conferred the title of the Fellow of the Indian Society of Agricultural Economics for his contributions to the discipline and the Society in 2018. He is founding co-editor, Millennial Asia-an intl. journal of Asian studies, published by Sage. His research interests lie in small producer and worker livelihoods and collectivization of such stakeholders in the context of agribusiness value chains and deregulation of agricultural markets in India and the developing world. He is known for his pioneering work on contract farming and farmer producer companies. 

Below you can find a video of our discussion.  

The main points discussed during the panel included: 

Core Issues 

  • The core structural issue appears to stem from the structure of the APMCs
  • The existing Mandi system which has over time created a monopsony (single-buyer); a rent-seeking political economy rife with nepotism and cronyism built on increasing commission rates; a deterioration of their performance in meeting the objective of building infrastructure for marketing agricultural goods; and interlinking of markets of illegal money lending and agricultural produce  
  • The price-certainty created by the MSP which is operational for practically 3 or 4 crops per state (but nominally for 23 crops in total) and covers about 98% of farmers in Punjab (it’s about 6% throughout the rest of India) resulting in exhaustive cultivation of land, and overdrawing on water resources  

Implementation Issues  

The implementation has been flawed because:

  • Most state governments had achieved the effective intent of the current changes legislatively
  • The Central government has made key to the wording of the acts and implemented changes through ordinances without any communication as to their impacts on farmers  
  • Uncertainty about future procurement intentions (which underpin the operation of the MSP)
  • The National Food Security Act (an enshrined right for 2/3 of India’s population) means that the government is unlikely to stop procuring wheat and paddy because private markets are too expensive, and with the introduction of storage can mean private participants can exercise pricing power  
  • Government policy documents providing conflicting perspectives on what should be done with open-ended procurement, eg. one the one hand making the MSP a legal right for farmers to give them certainty, or on the other hand make procurement closed-ended – this inconsistency has increased the anxiety of farmers  

Contract Farming 

  • New channels—for example selling to private buyers—are a necessary liberalisation, to break the current inefficient monopsony by the state  
  • Contract farming is not a new idea in India, Punjab has had contract farming for decades, but most small and marginal farmers have not benefitted from this yet  
  • Concerns about contract farming resulting in a covert corporate takeover are unlikely because there are written provisions that explicitly prevent corporations from transacting on land, but they do make it possible to use land earnings to repay debt  
  • There are some issues with the implementation of contract farming however
  • Despite the provision of a model contract, the quality and terms of the contracts in practice vary significantly
  • The bargaining power imbalance between farmers and corporates has not been subject to an adequate regulatory regime, and privatisation without regulation has proven to be disastrous  

Impact on the Average Farmer 

  • The replacement of the state procurement into a private sector monopsony doesn’t really change very much, or solve any fundamental issues  
  • The average farmer has been locked out of contract farming since it began in India, and they are not expected to benefit from the expansion of sales channels. Most larger purchasers (for example supermarkets) purchase from larger players  

Profile of the typical farmer  

  • Owns and operates 2.5 acres  
  • Half of it is dry  
  • He suffers from serious levels of production risk and also market risk  
  • He doesn’t get credit, or at very high rates  
  • He doesn’t get crop insurance
  • And when he comes to market after all his effort he is not able to get a good price
  • These small and marginal Farmers are 85% of the operators in the farming industry
  • The widening of sales channels to include private purchasing has been done so without any central clearing mechanism or collateral guarantees and introduces counterparty risks  
  • The Bihar example—which repealed the MSP instead of adding to it—does not provide evidence that the increase of sales channels provides a tangible benefit for Farmers  
  • Both speakers believe the solution to market problems lies outside of markets, for example the provision of credit. Because of the operating capital requirements, and production risks faced by farmers, they often get in trouble because they enter into (illegal) “interlocked” credit arrangements for personal consumption needs with Aartiyas which restricts their ability to market their produce and get the best price
  • The acts serve to add market risk to farmers in addition to the production risks they already face – the impact here may be mixed  

What can the Diaspora Do? 

  • Keep pressure on the government to ensure that the government does not dismantle the APMC system  
  • Help farmers to widen their crop base beyond the 2 crops they rely on  
  • Help farmers to move to higher value-added activities and move into the market
  • Help farmers to see a fuller identity that imagines a role beyond simply farming and production  
  • Help farmers to set up marketing activities (weighing, grading, drying, cleaning) and capture more of the retailing margins
  • Recognise Women as the unsung heroes of farm production  

Future Issues 

  • Development needs to be pro farmer and worker: there is very little farm employment left after the mechanisation of wheat and paddy production, and Punjab is planning to also mechanise cotton which will result in even less employment
  • The current development has made the small and marginal farmers livelihood practically impossible 

Additional Resources

We found value in presenting primary sources of information by directly asking experts in agroecnonomics. There are additional resources that we encourage readers to engage with to better understand farm practices in India and these new three farm bills. This is not a comprehensive list, but a sample of content available.

  • Article from the Tribune written by Devinder Sharma on the importance of assured pricing and a comparison to farming subsides in Western countries. Mr Sharma is a distinguished food and trade policy analyst. 
  • A White Paper by Professor Ramesh Chand, from the National Institution for Transforming India, Government of India. 
  • An analysis in The Diplomat by Professor Milind Sathye from the University of Canberra. 
  • Discussion video with Professor Ashok Gulati, who is Infosys chair professor at Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations. Associate Professor Mekhala Krishnamurthy, who is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Ashoka University. Siraj Hussain, who is a former Secretary of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Former Union Secretary Agriculture.  
  • Further discussion with Professor Singh.  
  • Further analysis with Professor Sekhar.  
  • The Climate Foundation addresses how current farming practices in North India contribute to pollution in New Delhi and have farmers can both reduce environmental impact and increase productivity. 
  • Article from The Hindu which discusses the depleting water table in Punjab and the effects on farming. 

Wishing you a Very Happy Bandi Chhor Divas & Diwali from the YSPN Team

In Blog by Saksham KapoorLeave a Comment

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This Saturday, 14 November 2020 Sikhs and Hindus around the world will light their homes and Temples with hundreds of candles in celebrations of Bandi Chhor Divas and Diwali.

What are Bandi Chhor Divas and Diwali?

Bandi Chor Divas (Day of Liberation), marks the day on which the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind Singh Ji, was released from wrongful imprisonment and returned to the community. Bandi Chor Divas is celebrated with great joy as it was a time when "right" prevailed over "wrong".

According to tradition, Guru Hargobind Singh Ji was offered release from prison, but only agreed on the condition that 52 other unjustly detained prisoners would also be released. These prisoners were being held without trial or any other legal process. Emperor Jahangir offered release on terms, that those who clung to the Guru's coat would be set free, intending to limit the number of prisoners who could be released. However, in a masterstroke, Guru Hargobind Singh Ji had a coat made with 52 tassels attached to it so that all of the princes could leave prison with him.

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What about Diwali?

The festival of lights? Diwali is celebrated by Hindus to honour the Lord Rama-chandra. It is believed that on this day Rama returned to his people after 14 years of exile during which he fought and won a battle against the demons and the demon king, Ravana. People lit their houses to celebrate his victory over evil (light over darkness).
 
The reasons Sikh and Hindus celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas and Diwali on the same day is because Guru Hargobind Singh Ji arrived on Diwali at the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, India (also known as the “Golden Temple”) which was lit with hundreds of lamps and he was received in the same way as the Lord Rama and the day came to be known as the “Bandi Chhor Divas” (the day of freedom).

So this Saturday, if see someone from the Sikh or Hindu faith, be sure to wish them a happy Bandi Chhor Divas, and Diwali!

Resources

We've created a handy explainer about the differences, the history and what both festivals are about, along with who Sikhs are, and how they contribute to Australian society

Links in the PDF:

BCD-Diwali-YSPN-2020

Download

Network Insights: Commodities, Finance and Pricing with Preet Toki

In Network Insights by Harjot MinhasLeave a Comment

Preet Toki – Pricing Manager, Nufarm

Starting off in commercial accounting, Preet Toki’s career has taken him through multiple roles and industries – with time spent working across the finance, telecommunications and agricultural commodities sectors.

As a previous Lead of YSPN’s Melbourne Chapter, we were very excited to be able to sit down and hear some of the insights he’s picked up along the way.

Q: What is your job title/role?

Pricing manager in a ASX 200 commodity manufacturer.  The role lies within a relatively flat senior organisational structure, where I work with the heads of multiple departments and answer directly to the CEO of the Aus and NZ business.

It’s a dynamic role, and requires me to keep up-to-date with the wider supply chain, commodity markets, customer positioning, and form interpretations on how the business should price it’s offering in the future.

Q: In what industry/field?

Agricultural manufacturing – many of the products we supply are used within the wider farming industry in Australia as well as globally.

Q: Did you migrate to your current country?

Yes – came to Australia as a 7 years old.

Q: How was this experience?

From year 3 – year 11 I was the only Sikh kid at school, and really the only non-white kid at all. Migrating across at a young age, I remember it was a strong culture shock for both me and my family.

I remember starting at school and one of the first things someone said to me was “Wow – you must have gotten really tanned over summer”. The people I was around genuinely didn’t understand what it meant for someone to be brown.

At a young age, you have to sort through a lot of issues on culture and identity. Dealing with things like bullying and culture and standing out. By the time I got towards the end of my schooling I’d developed a strong idea of what I wanted out of life, and developed a bit of a thick skin along the way.

Q: What helped you through the experience?

What made a big difference was having a sense of community growing up. In a big way, I credit having my elder cousins and the other kids I got to interact with through Sikh Youth Australia and the Gurdwara to help normalise life in Aus. I had people to look up to and at that time, just having other kids with their little jura’s to play cricket with made a big difference. I found having the wider community around me, gave me a foundation to build connections which supported me through the challenges I was facing.

Q: What advice would you give to other migrants?

Growing up in Australia, I achieved a good year 12 result, received a scholarship for accountancy in university, and graduated with distinction – but when you get to the corporate world none of that matters.

In the corporate world, how well you articulate your message, how you take people on your journey – that’s key.

During my scholarship I took part in a co-op position, working in a prominent telecommunications company. The role was a temp. position within the treasury department, and I was responsible for handling the paperwork for some massive transactions. I still remember the rush I felt going to the bank to cash $999,999 cheques on the company’s behalf.

When it came time for me to finish up my role, they were looking for someone to fill my position permanently. The treasury director called me in and asking me to reflect on the work I’d been doing, to have a look at some resumes for who could take over my role full time and give my recommendation.

So I was 19, and I went through the resumes and I picked the candidate with the highest qualification. He’d done an MBA and a whole host of certifications and to me looked the most qualified for the role. The director looked back at me and asked me “Do you understand that these people are more qualified than I am, to do my role?”

For me, this was a bit of a slap in the face. It showed me what Australian culture was like. It’s not about the qualifications. If you want to succeed in the Australian corporate culture, you have to be able to know how to communicate your message and use the softer skills to advance in your career. 

Q: How did you get into this position or career?

I never planned to end up in this role. I’m a chartered accountant by background, but went straight into working in the commercial sector.

My advice here is not to be fixed on the journey steps, it’s important to understand that your overall career journey will be a mix of positions and industries. Often times you’ll learn the most by jumping around different roles.

I initially did a lot of business partnering roles, went through management reporting – then to planning, and from there moved into pricing. I’ve found that a career isn’t just thinking about your next role. It’s about where you want to be in 10 years. If you’d asked me 10 years ago how I’d step out of accounting finance, I’d never have seen the steps that lead me from there to here.

Q: Were educational credentials important? If so, what did you study?

Personally I have an accounting degree and have completed my Chartered Accountancy accreditation. I observed that it was difficult to break through middle management in accounting finance without having a CA.

Since then though I have observed that while there’s a lot of prestige overseas surrounding qualification, it’s not really how things are done in Australia.

For some of our migrants I’ve observed that it’s quite a negative experience to not get recognition for your qualifications, and I empathise since often those accreditations required a lot of hard work and perseverance.

What I’d say is, believe in yourself and your qualifications, and focus on communicating the value you can create for the company. They’re enough to get your foot in the door, and once you’re in, your intellect will shine through. 

Q: What is a day in the life of a Pricing Manager like?

Rather than day-by-day, I approach things one week at a time. Every Monday I list off that week’s priorities, start flagging things ahead of time and box out time for different activities.

A large part of my role requires engaging with many stakeholders within my team so there are many meeting I get invited to, though more and more I’m learning there’s an art to knowing which ones are necessary and which less so.

In addition to this it’s important to do the groundwork to understand the wider market. Keeping up to date with movements and changes across the wider field.

Initially, when I started working the tasks I did and the way I spoke to managers was slighty more once directional in manner. Managers will ask you to complete tasks, and you’ll report back to them with relevant information. As I’ve advanced in my career, I’ve found that a lot of my work involves having conversation along the lines of “this is what I’m thinking we need to do, how do you feel this could work out?”. It’s a much softer approach to working, requiring interpersonal skills, but it’s the finesse you need to use to make things happen.

Q: Any Likes/Dislikes?

A key thing that I enjoy in this job is the ability to do long term, lateral thinking and strategy. It’s quite enjoyable to be able to study the market, and personally drive a part of the organisations key operation.

A challenge of the job though is the heavy reliance required to influencing people more senior than you. In corporate teams the “right” answer isn’t always the right answer. It’s by building trust within your organisation and clearly and carefully messaging the journey you’re proposing, that you can create value.

Q: What’s the best and worst thing about the job?

There’s a limit to how much data can talk. The best and worst things about the work is that it’s a juggling act of communicating empathetically and building relationships that allows your work to make an impact. It’s a very human way of working, and so sometimes the outcomes are also very human in both positive and negative ways. 

Q: What’s the hardest and easiest thing about the work?

The easiest part of the job is when you get to share good news. When you get the right price point and things are working smoothly, it’s great to be able to share in the good news within the wider team.

The hardest part can be dealing with when things fall apart for reasons you couldn’t know how to account for. If I’ve promoted that we position our products in a particular point, and then for example flooding in parts of China changes demand for our products, all of a sudden we’re caught off guard and you have to adapt quickly.

Q: What fulfils you in this role and what do you find unfulfilling?

The fulfilment of the role is a double edged sword – we work in business-to-business sales. Think of our supply chain like we’re Cadbury and we sell to the wider retail network.

When things work and you get your strategy on point, it’s very fulfilling to know that your strategies and vision have directly caused the business’ grow. But when things go wrong in pricing, that’s when the finger pointing can start. Overall you need to have a thick skin and belief in your system to weather the highs and lows.

Q: What advice would you give to people who want to enter this industry?

It’s important to build emotional intelligence – in a role like this, you have to carefully manage many stakeholders to come to an outcome. For example, no sales manager wants the price to go up, but no production manager wants prices to go down. You’ll often find yourself at cross roads, and sometimes things can go wrong. It’s just a part of the job and as you get your bearings, you start to back yourself and develop a thicker skin.

Q: If you’re open to people connecting with you on social media for more information and guidance, where can people contact you?

Happy for people to reach out – the best way would be to touch base on ptoki25@hotmail.com.

The Kindness Pandemic

In COVID-19 by Saksham KapoorLeave a Comment

While the COVID-19 pandemic has left us physically isolated, it has in many ways brought us together. Over the past few months, we have seen acts of kindness in the news, and social media, ranging from people and organisations delivering groceries to offering free services, and reducing rents.

Sewa in a changing world

Traditionally, in Sikh history, ‘Sewa’ (selfless service) has taken the form of supporting the community through the provision of basic requirements such as food, lodging, and clothing, for example, ‘langar sewa’ (the communal kitchen). During, the 2019 and 2020 YSPN Elevate Conferences, panellists comprising Sikh leaders from around the world explored the concept of sewa in a rapidly changing world and found that it can be applied in various forms to magnify our impact as a community. This is particularly important given the rapid growth in the Sikh population in Australia, with a 400+% increase in the number of Sikhs between the last two censuses (2006-2016).

Despite the Government imposed restrictions on social distancing and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sikh organisations across Australia and New Zealand have been practising this modern concept of sewa in the most meaningful and impactful way for “Sarbat da Bhalla” (the welfare of all) by continuing selfless service in various forms including offering free food and delivery and providing free or subsidised services in the industries of health, law and justice, education and vocational.

Who can help you?

To make the efforts of the entire community most effective and help those people in need as much as possible YSPN has compiled a list of organisations in Australia and New Zealand offering help. You can find the resources under the Related Files section at the bottom of this article.

If you need assistance, have questions about what is being offered, or want to know your eligibility for these services, or have any other inquiries specific to the services, we encourage you to contact the organisation directly to obtain further information.

What is YSPN doing?

The YSPN Team has been finding ways to connect with the community and help as much as possible. As a result:

  1. We have digitised our free CV check program, and general career counselling advice to support the community during these tough times. For help on your CV or to find ways to improve it, send your CV and/or any questions to cvcheck@yspn.org.au and we’ll reply to you with feedback.
  2. If you're looking for a job, we’ve put together an article here which sets out the list of organisations currently hiring during this pandemic.
  3. We’ve delivered a webinar on physical and mental health well-being, delivered by two accredited experts, accessible on Facebook (and will be made available on our website shortly). We will also be delivering a steady stream of COVID related content and our usual types of workshops and marquee events (via webinar) with eminent, expert speakers to help you with your professional aims.

How can you help?

We are inspired by the goodwill and energy that has appeared from our communities and know that many of you will feel a duty, and responsibility to act. If you wish to volunteer your time or donate money or resources through YSPN, please send us an e-mail at volunteer@yspn.org.au; or reach out to us through our social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram), and we’ll connect you with the relevant person in the team, or organisation which best matches your motivation and objective.

In these challenging times, let us take solace in the acts of kindness and sewa of many.

Note: The information above has been compiled using publicly available data and is, as far as we are aware, current as of 18 April 2020. While we have done our utmost to ensure the information in this article is comprehensive, up to date and as accurate as possible, we do not guarantee that this is the case and make no representation, statement or warranty to that effect. For e.g., we make no representation or guarantee that the organisations listed in this article are still offering such benefits, whether they are any terms and conditions applying to their service or whether you will be able to qualify to obtain the benefit. We are not responsible for any loss or liability you may incur in connection with the information supplied here. In the event you do find a mistake please contact us (via emailFacebook or Instagram) so, we can issue a correction as soon as possible and minimise any further impact.

COVID-19 – what does it mean for your business?

In COVID-19 by Saksham Kapoor1 Comment

Not only has COVID 19 hurt us medically, but it’s also leaving an economic strain on us too.

Businesses across a range of industries have seen a significant reduction in turnover which will translate into cash flow issues.  This also raises a question on what this means for employees working for those businesses.

The government has responded to these unprecedented economic hiccups by introducing stimulus packages designed to assist Australian businesses and employees to navigate through the economic impact of COVID 19.

For Australian businesses, including small, medium and large enterprises, the Federal and State governments have introduced the following measures:

  • Instant asset write-offs (income tax measure);
  • Business backing investment (income tax measure);
  • Australian Taxation Office administrative concessions for business (taxation measure);
  • Wage subsidy- jobkeeper payments;
  • State based concessions primarily focused on payroll taxes; and
  • Tax free payments.

Depending on the size of the business, these concessions may impact the taxation of returns to investors, international taxation requirements and accounting disclosures for reports lodged with ASIC.

For employees working from home, there are simplified income tax deductions which may be available for certain costs incurred for carrying out their professional duties which are necessary for producing income.  It’s important to distinguish these costs as the deductibility of the outgoings will depend on the nature of the costs incurred.  And for those employees who have been paid provides payments which are COVID19 related (whether they be pandemic allowances or for being stood down), its important these payments are taxed correctly for income tax purposes.

We have provided a snapshot providing some further detail on how this all works and what it means for you.

Looking after your Physical and Mental Health Well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic

In COVID-19, Events by Saksham KapoorLeave a Comment

On Saturday 18 April 2020, YSPN held its first-ever Webinar: Looking after your Physical and Mental Health Well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic with accredited speakers: Dr Kuljit Singh, General Practitioner, with an interest in preventative and lifestyle medicine; and Jatinder Kaur, Accredited bilingual mental health clinician and social worker.

This post has information split into different modules, for your convenience – click through to any heading to read the sections you are most interested in:

SNAP framework

Dr Kuljit shared the extremely useful and easy to remember “SNAP” framework for maintaining positive physical health, it is summarised below.

  • S – Make sure you get enough ‘Sleep’; When you experience feelings of ‘Stress’ take a moment to be mindful; Make sure you continue to ‘Socialise’ while maintaining physical distancing; Reflect on your sense of ‘Spirituality’; and do things for others as a ‘Selflessness’ practice
  • N – ‘Nutrition’: Make sure you’re drinking close to 2 litres of water a day. Make sure you maintain a meal routine (not adding, changing or subtracting. Try consuming foods that are low in sugar, low in fat, high in protein, and avoid excessive processed foods. Do not smoke or take recreational drugs.
  • A – ‘Active’: Make sure you remain active, go for a 30-45 minute brisk walk or cycle ride, any form of movement at least 5 times a week. This will release positive endorphins, is great for the cardiac system, good for our mental health, keeps our joints going, and it is going to prevent us from putting on too much weight, which is a risk factor for this virus. Also try to find one activity that makes you feel good and implement that if you can, even if it is just for 15 to 20 minutes a day.
  • P – ‘Purpose’ and ‘Physical Problems’: It’s important to cultivate and maintain a positive sense of purpose. For those who may have lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, think of creative ways to use this time from learning new skills through online learning, volunteering and practising selflessness, or picking up a new hobby. And address chronic physical problems, by continuing to remain in contact with your doctor, through telehealth services and other mechanisms.

Managing your emotions in these unprecedented times

Jatinder Kaur and Dr Kulit shared the below invaluable insights into ways of managing feelings of feelings of stress, overwhelm, loneliness and restlessness during these unprecedented times:

  • Introduce structure: Structure helps by giving you a sense of control in a situation which can often feel otherwise. The way to introduce structure is by establishing or maintaining a routine. If possible, try sticking as closely to your pre-COVID-19 routine.
  • Reframe your Situation: If you do not have work, in order to work through the stress of becoming unemployed or reduced hours it may be helpful to change your perspective and rethinking in your mind, “yes I am one of those unfortunate ones but how do I use this time that I have to upskill, to learn a new skill or to diversify my skills so that I am capitalising on this extra time given to me”.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Prior to this pandemic, individuals and collective communities were often operating at a rapid, potentially unsustainable pace and were at risk of burning out. This pandemic offers time to cultivate mindfulness, through taking the opportunity to use social isolation to rest, pause, and reflect. Time spent like this may clear your mind of stressors that had been building up and maybe an opportunity to reset that we never get back.
  • Practice Moderation and Common Sense: Set boundaries on your consumption of media and watch the news at a set time from a reputable source so that your mental energy is not being consumed by constant breaking news updates. Given the amount of Whatsapp forwards being shared containing information and home remedies it is recommended to be careful about the source of information. Ensure the information you consume is reliable, accurate and valid and comes from verifiably reputable sources.

Summary of the Q&A

Below is a collection of the Questions from our audience, including those which we didn’t have enough time to respond to during the webinar, and the responses from our accredited experts. The responses have been edited for concision and clarity.

Is the advice in Australia to only wear a mask if you are sick?

Generally yes, the medical authorities are still saying that you should only be wearing a mask if you are either sick or have COVID-19. There are a couple of reasons for not asking everyone to wear a mask, one being a shortage of masks around the world. Over the past 10 days however, the World Health Organisation (WHO) have started suggesting if you are going out of the home, you could wear your own face mask, even a cloth mask. These can prevent us from touching our faces which can increase the risk of picking up an infection. As long as wearing a mask does not reduce the stockpile of masks for frontline workers, it can be reasonable to wear one.

How do you find the motivation when trying to work from home

Routine, routine, routine! If your brain works best at a particular time of the day, for example in the morning use that time to maximise the amount of work you get done. Your brain also works at an optimal level on 6 to 8 hours of sleep so sleep is crucial. Other tips include:

  • Stay connected: Keep reaching out to colleagues and peers at least as much as you would normally do, using the many options modern technology affords us to collaborate, communicate and interact with each other. If you work in a larger team, consider daily check-ins with everyone to start the day together. And to avoid missing out on the normal chit-chat in the office (which really is the social glue that holds together relationships and teams), why not schedule a five-minute video call to say hello during morning or afternoon tea time?
  • Get out of your pyjamas/gym gear: It may be tempting to slack off a bit on the personal presentation front, but you will make it harder for yourself to remain motivated and in the right mindset to get work done. We don’t only wear professional business attire and keep ourselves looking kempt and tidy to impress others; we are also sending a message to ourselves by modifying our appearance. Being dressed appropriately will help you stay in “work mode” – mentally, emotionally and behaviourally.
  • Don’t sit on the sofa or work from your bed: In other words, behave as if you were in the office. Make sure you have a dedicated and practical working space, ideally in an area of your home that is comfortable and separate from personal activities and family life (especially if you have other family members at home with you). Take some time to set up a suitable workstation if you haven’t worked from home before, and make sure you have access to everything you need to work productively, down to the paper clips and stapler.
  • Make a plan for each day. What do you want to achieve today? Having a plan for the day ahead is always useful because it keeps you on track and accountable, but it may be especially important when you are working on your own. Not having others around you can make it more difficult to stay motivated and follow through with tasks. When planning your days, make use of the flexibility that working from home offers us. For example, it may now be easier to schedule tasks which require your undivided attention and focus during the best time for you to do this, when you are naturally at your most alert. Experiment and see what works, but always do so with a plan. Pro tip: Share your plans for the day with your team or a trusted colleague, this will help you stay on track.
  • Stick to a work schedule. Especially in times of heighted uncertainty and rapid change, having a routine helps to create stability and predictability in our lives. If you always started work at 8.30am, keep doing so. Have your lunch break when you usually have it (even it feels awkward!), and log off at the usual time. Don’t forget to schedule in regular small breaks to stretch, get some fresh air and take your eyes off the screen.
  • Set firm and clear boundaries. This is something that many people struggle with in the best of times, but now is the time to set, communicate and protect your personal boundaries. For example, if you were in an office, you wouldn’t allow your work to be constantly interrupted by personal phone calls and emails, visitors or homework. Don’t change the rules now because you are working from home. On the other hand, just because your new work desk happens to be at your home doesn’t mean you never get off work again. As much as possible, clear your work away (physically as well as mentally) when it’s time to log off, and make sure the line between work and personal life doesn’t dissolve. As much as you need to ensure that you have adequate space and time during the day to work productively, it is equally important to protect your home life from becoming enmeshed with work. Be kind to yourself, be mindful of how much stimulus our brain can handle and where we produce our best work.

With news of restrictions easing in the next month or so, how realistic do you think this is?

We may see an increase in numbers as a result repatriating citizens, thus it is a very fluid state. There may be a relaxation in the restrictions in 4 weeks, but we also need to prepare our mindset for that not occurring – and that is okay as well. We also do not want to be too euphoric that Australia is doing really well too quickly or relax too quickly because we have winter coming up and the flu season, which is not a good mix.

How can you politely tell your family that you need some time to yourself and to leave you alone for a little while?

There is nothing wrong with having ‘me time’. It is important to switch off and to practice self-care for our mental health well-being. Self-care includes putting boundaries in place so that you can come back with a positive mood and positive headspace when you re-engage with others in your household. Also, if you look after yourself better, you are going to look after others better as well.

Do you have any advice or tips for younger children that may be projecting their feelings of anxiety during this time?

Children are out of their routine and younger children really thrive on good routine. We need to be mindful of what their usual routine is, make sure they are eating on time and making sure that we are not just giving them technology to keep them company, we need to stimulate their minds through physical play. It is important to have good quality time with children and to use language that they understand and try to frame this pandemic in a positive way. Make it fun and active for them! Give them space as well so they can speak about what they are worried about.

If you are struggling to fall asleep or have restless sleep and just not able to switch your brain off and then waking up the following day very fatigued, what are some tips and strategies to combat this and get into a good routine?

Some tips for good sleep hygiene include:

  • Avoid stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks, chocolate during the latter part of the day.
  • An hour before bedtime make sure you have stopped any brain stimulating activities or any adrenaline pumping shows or scrolling the news. Give yourself that one-hour time to get into the sleep zone and turn your brain off.
  • Reduce screen time of mobiles, laptops, tablets etc., the light in these devices keep your brain awake.
  • Physical activity during the day can be very helpful for sleep.
  • Having relaxing music playing, having a warm shower or drink can be helpful.
  • There are a lot of Apps you can access to assist with sleep as well.

Recently I’m finding my confidence has been dropping, for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, with the new working from home environment, it feels even more difficult to try and reach out and connect with colleagues (especially because I’m new to the workplace). Do you have any advice on how to approach this issue?

Confidence dropping could be due to many reasons. It could be useful to explore this a bit more i.e. any other symptoms of emotional upset or other stressors that have triggered this. It may also be worth talking to a GP or counsellor first.

Regarding communication with colleagues, check if there are any social media groups specific to your workplace e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook, or a general email group for bulk messaging, or possibly suggest virtual meetings regularly to stay in connect.

How we can let other people know that we too have something important going on in our life? Like I have problem in concentrating on my work.

Communication is key – no one can really read your mind, so keep these channels open and assertively inform relevant people of your concerns/wishes. You are “No 1 Priority”, so you need to look after Number 1 first!

In your profession, what are some of the ways of working that have changed during this pandemic, and how will these continue after?

Our work has changed with the addition of widespread Telehealth and heightened infection control e.g. wearing of masks, gloves and scrubs more frequently in General Practice. I think these changes will remain for some time yet (at least 6 months for Telehealth and probably long term for the infection control measures).

Is there anything we should be thinking of doing to prepare for post COVID-19 life?

The best thing to do is spend this time in social isolation as well as you can i.e. look after yourself mentally and physically. Start planning ahead, regarding career/job, finances, life goals etc. Also, “don’t sweat the small stuff” and don’t worry too far ahead, give yourself small goals to achieve frequently, and always keep things in perspective with a positive mindset 😊

There’s no doubt it’s a challenging time for all concerned. We hope you can implement some of the above strategies to implement healthy mental and physical wellbeing in yours and your families lives. We are all in this together, and we will all need a little extra support during this time, so let’s be kind, stay connected, check in with each other, and encourage people to seek professional support when they need it, as the saying goes, “a problem shared, is a problem halved”.

Information for At-Risk Vulnerable Members of our Community

At risk vulnerable community groups include elderly (over 65 and those who have chronic health conditions, indigenous people over the age of 50), pregnant women, migrants, international students and people in abusive relationships.

How can you help?

Vulnerable members of our society need to know that they are not alone, they do have resources and access to people who can help them and it is our duty as a community to keep our mind open and constantly asking simple questions like ‘are you okay?’ It is really important that people do not feel as if they are alone and know that there is always help and there is always a way out.

Bystanders, neighbours, community leaders all play a role in being a support person in recognising that someone may be experiencing domestic and family violence. We cannot ignore the signs of yelling or screams, we all have the number for 000. During this pandemic, police and hospitals are operating 24/7 and can assist anyone in need of help, they will not turn anyone away.

There may be a cultural expectation of caring for our elderly relatives and feelings of shame and guilt due to having to physically distance from them, however we can still stay in touch via facetime and phone calls to check in. Not physically seeing them does not mean we do not care or love for them, we are showing our love in other ways, by maintaining that physical distance we are protecting them by looking out for their health and well-being.

Do you need help?

There are many industries that have increased employment and seeking additional workers due to an increase in demand. For a list of these industries currently hiring additional employees, please refer to a recent paper published by YSPN: https://yspn.org.au/2020/04/15/looking-for-a-job-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Additionally, the YSPN Team has brought our CV Check program online. If you are looking for a job, and believe your CV could use a review, send it to our team by emailing cvcheck@yspn.org.au.

The Different Support Services Available

Support Services in Australia

It is important to remember that feelings of stress, anxiety, restlessness, difficulties concentrating or sleeping and feelings of disconnect or loneliness are all understandable in the face of this significant challenge.

It is also extremely important to seek out help if you feel you need it – it takes a lot of courage and self-respect to be able to take this step and there is an immense amount of strength in vulnerability. Below are some telephone and online counselling supports available:

Medicare Services

  • Medicare has introduced temporary telehealth mental health services for the period 13 March 2020 to 30 September 2020 inclusive. This means people eligible for a range of existing Medicare mental health services can now receive those services via videoconferencing or telephone. The new telehealth services must be bulk billed. 
  • Eligible patients should ask their service providers about their telehealth options, and whether these are appropriate for their clinical care needs. 
  • More information can be found at the Department’s website at www.health.gov.au by searching Bulk Billed MBS Telehealth Services
  • If you are looking for a psychologist, the Australian Psychological Society’s website, Find A Psychologist, provides details about how to access psychologists across Australia. You can also visit the Australian Clinical Psychology Association website to find a clinical psychologist.
  • Details of face to face health services, including other health professionals, are listed on health direct Australia’s health services directory

Crisis support

General counselling and mental health support

  • Beyond Blue – online and phone mental health support. Phone: 1300 22 4636 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Beyond Blue online chat.
  • Care in Mind– online and phone counselling for people living, working, or studying in Melbourne’s northern, central, and western suburbs. Phone: 1300 096 269 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). CareinMIND online counselling.
  • Headspace – confidential mental health and wellbeing support for young people (12 – 25 years) and their families, including information, support, and health services. Phone: 1800 650 890 (9am – 1am, 7 days a week). eheadspace online chat.
  • MensLine – professional telephone and online support and information service for Australian men. Phone 1300 78 99 78 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). MensLine online counselling.
  • Mindspot – free telephone and online service for people with stress, worry, anxiety, low mood or depression. It provides online assessment and treatment for anxiety and depression and can help you find local services. Call 1800 61 44 34 (8am – 8pm, Monday – Friday; 8am-6pm, Saturday).
  • Kids Helpline – Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25. Phone 1800 55 1800 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

Specialist areas

  • 1800Respect – confidential counselling, information and support for people impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse via phone or online chat. Phone: 1800 737 732 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). 1800Respect online chat.
  • Butterfly Foundation’s National Helpline (ED HOPE) – confidential service that provides information, counselling, and treatment referral for people with eating disorders, and body image and related issues. Phone: 1800 33 4673 (8am – midnight).
  • Directline – confidential alcohol and drug counselling and referral service. Phone: 1800 888 236 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Directline online counselling.
  • Switchboard Victoria– telephone and web counselling, information, and referral service for LGBTQI people. Phone: 1800 184 527 (3pm – 12am, 7 days a week). QLife Webchat.

Support services in New Zealand

The best place to access accurate, timely and reliable information around Covid19 is on the New Zealand government’s Covid19 website. The website also provides extensive information and resources for looking after all aspects of hauora, the Māori philosophy of health including physical, mental, social and spiritual health. Particularly relevant on the Covid19 website, is information about looking after your mental wellbeing. You can also access a range of free resources (including apps, toolkits and other digital resources) here.

You can find support for the prevention of family and sexual violence on the Covid19 website too. Remember, it is okay to ask for help. Call 111 in an emergency.

For help finding community based health and social support services, call the Family Services Helpline (0800 211 211). They can directly transfer you to a range of services, including, but not limited to:

  • Women’s Refuge – call 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE) for 24-hour service advocacy and accommodation for women and their children experiencing family violence
  • SHINE – free call 0508 744 633 (9am to 11pm) if you’re experiencing domestic abuse, or want to know how to help someone else
  • Shakti New Zealand – call 0800 742 584 for culturally competent support services for women, children and families of Asian, African and Middle Eastern origin who have experienced domestic violence

The Ministry of Health has a variety of healthcare services you can access. Particularly pertinent to this time is Healthline. Call Healthline free on 0800 611 116 for health advice and information.

You can find out about how to access a range of mental health services on the Ministry website too.

Other useful helplines listed on the Ministry website are:

The Mental Health Foundation and The Lowdown are also useful websites that provides links to helplines, FAQs and tips to get through.

Post Event Wrap-Up and Where to Find More From YSPN

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to tune in, were unable to stay for the entire duration of the webinar, or would like to simply re-watch the material to pick up on what you might have missed, you can watch the recorded Facebook Live version of the Webinar here.

It is important to remember that feelings of stress, anxiety, restlessness, difficulties concentrating or sleeping and feelings of disconnect or loneliness are all understandable in the face of this significant challenge.

It is also extremely important to seek out help if you feel you need it – it takes a lot of courage and self-respect to be able to take this step and there is an immense amount of strength in vulnerability. Please reach out to us should you require a full list of support services offering free personal and professional support during this unprecedented time.

If you got value from this webinar, please share it with other people you know so that they can benefit too. You can forward this e-mail, or share any of the links above directly into your favourite Whatsapp Group chat, or e-mail thread.

We would be grateful if you could complete this short 5-minute survey (click here) of your webinar experience as it will help us focus on the most valuable areas to our audience for future webinars.

Also remember to like us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date about our organisation and upcoming events.

Thank you once again and we hope to see you at our next virtual event!

Additionally, the YSPN Team has brought our CV Check program online. If you are looking for a job, and believe your CV could use a review, send it to our team by e-mailing cvcheck@yspn.org.au.

Online CV checks

In Announcements by Natasha Bhangal3 Comments

English

Are you currently looking for a job and need help reviewing your CV? Do you need help re-entering the job market once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided? We’ve got just the service which can help, and it’s free!

Although our monthly CV checks at the Gurudwara have been temporarily suspended, we are going to continue to have CV checks online. We have volunteers across the Australia and New Zealand Sikh community, as well as members of the YSPN team, who are offering online CV checks and casual career counselling, free of charge.  

For help on your CV or to find ways to improve it, send your CV and/or any questions to the email address below. We’ll reply back to you with feedback and answers to any of your questions.

Email your CV’s and questions through to:
cvcheck@yspn.org.au


Punjabi

ਕੀ ਤੁਸੀਂ ਇਸ ਸਮੇਂ ਕੋਈ ਨੌਕਰੀ ਲੱਭ ਰਹੇ ਹੋ ਅਤੇ ਆਪਣੇ ਸੀਵੀ (CV) ਦੀ ਪੜਤਾਲ ਕਰਨ ਵਿਚ ਸਹਾਇਤਾ ਦੀ ਜ਼ਰੂਰਤ ਹੈ? ਕੀ ਇਕ ਵਾਰ ਕੋਵਿਡ -19 (COVID-19) ਮਹਾਂਮਾਰੀ ਖ਼ਤਮ ਹੋਣ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਅਦ ਤੁਹਾਨੂੰ ਨੌਕਰੀ ਦੇ ਬਾਜ਼ਾਰ ਵਿਚ ਦੁਬਾਰਾ ਦਾਖਲ ਹੋਣ ਵਿਚ ਸਹਾਇਤਾ ਦੀ ਜ਼ਰੂਰਤ ਹੈ? ਸਾਨੂੰ ਸਿਰਫ ਇੱਕ ਸੇਵਾ ਮਿਲੀ ਹੈ ਜੋ ਸਹਾਇਤਾ ਕਰ ਸਕਦੀ ਹੈ, ਅਤੇ ਇਹ ਮੁਫਤ ਹੈ!

ਹਾਲਾਂਕਿ ਗੁਰੂਦੁਆਰਾ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਵਿਖੇ ਸਾਡੀਆਂ ਮਹੀਨਾਵਾਰ ਸੀਵੀ (CV) ਜਾਂਚਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਅਸਥਾਈ ਤੌਰ ਤੇ ਮੁਅੱਤਲ ਕਰ ਦਿੱਤਾ ਗਿਆ ਹੈ, ਪਰ ਅਸੀਂ ਆਨ ਲਾਈਨ ਸੀਵੀ ਚੈਕ ਕਰਵਾਉਂਦੇ ਰਹਾਂਗੇ. ਸਾਡੇ ਕੋਲ ਪੂਰੇ ਆਸਟਰੇਲੀਆ ਅਤੇ ਨਿ ਨਿਊਜ਼ੀਲੈਂਡ ਸਿੱਖ ਭਾਈਚਾਰੇ ਦੇ ਵਲੰਟੀਅਰ ਹਨ ਅਤੇ ਨਾਲ ਹੀ ਵਾਈਐਸਪੀਐਨ (YSPN) ਟੀਮ ਦੇ ਮੈਂਬਰ, ਜੋ ਆਨਲਾਈਨ ਸੀਵੀ (CV) ਚੈਕਿੰਗ ਅਤੇ ਕੈਰੀਅਰ ਦੀ ਸਲਾਹ-ਮਸ਼ਵਰੇ ਦੀ ਮੁਫਤ ਪੇਸ਼ਕਸ਼ ਕਰ ਰਹੇ ਹਨ.

ਆਪਣੀ ਸੀਵੀ (CV) ਤੇ ਸਹਾਇਤਾ ਲਈ ਜਾਂ ਇਸ ਨੂੰ ਸੁਧਾਰਨ ਦੇ ਤਰੀਕਿਆਂ ਦਾ ਪਤਾ ਲਗਾਉਣ ਲਈ, ਆਪਣਾ ਸੀਵੀ (CV) ਅਤੇ / ਜਾਂ ਕੋਈ ਪ੍ਰਸ਼ਨ ਹੇਠਾਂ ਦਿੱਤੇ ਈਮੇਲ ਪਤੇ ਤੇ ਭੇਜੋ. ਅਸੀਂ ਤੁਹਾਡੇ ਜਵਾਬ ਅਤੇ ਤੁਹਾਡੇ ਕਿਸੇ ਵੀ ਪ੍ਰਸ਼ਨਾਂ ਦੇ ਜਵਾਬ ਦੇਵਾਂਗੇ.

ਆਪਣੀ ਸੀਵੀ (CV), ਜਾਂ ਕੋਈ ਪ੍ਰਸ਼ਨ ਭੇਜੋ
cvcheck@yspn.org.au

Looking for a job during the COVID-19 Pandemic? Here’s a list of Australian Industries and Employers Hiring Now

In COVID-19 by Ramneek Singh1 Comment

The COVID-19 pandemic and the strict Government restrictions implemented in response to the pandemic has seen devasting impacts on the Australian economy with the Australian Bureau of Statistics data revealing that two thirds (66%) of Australian businesses have reported that their cash flow has reduced and nearly half (47%) of businesses have had to make changes to their staffing by reducing hours, letting go off staff or asking staff to work from home as a result of COVID-19.  

Thousands of Australians have lost their jobs and images of kilometre-long lines outside Centrelink have broken the hearts of many in our community. Unfortunately, it is predicted that unemployment numbers will continue to rise as many more business are forced to shut down due reduced demand in the current COVID-19 climate.  

The disruption to the Australian economy has certainly impacted the Australian Sikh population, which has risen by 400% in the last 10 years. This includes thousands of international students and migrants in our community, many of whom are unfortunately not entitled to Government relief or benefits to get them through these difficult times.  

So what can you do if you’ve lost your job?  

Be proactive at finding a temporary alternative  

It is important that international students and temporary work visa holders who have lost their jobs or are facing substantial hardships adopt a proactive approach now towards sourcing gainful employments to stay afloat in these unprecedented times. This may mean accepting a job which does not necessarily match your skillset but is simply a temporary solution to continue to pay the bills and provide the basic necessities.  

Focus on in-demand roles and industries  

The good news is that the ABS data has revealed that there are many industries that have been required to hire a substantial number of extra employees due to an increase in demand.  

Below is a list of these industries, employers that are hiring and links to their hiring portals. 

Supermarkets: Coles is looking to hire an additional 5,000 casual workers, Woolworths is looking to fill 20,000 positions nationwide and ALDI is also hiring to meet the recent increase in demand.  

Telstra: Telstra is recruiting more than 1,000 temporary call centre jobs across Australia.  

Services Australia: Expected to take on 5,000 more Centrelink workers to handle the flood of unemployment applications.  

Federal Health: The Federal Health Department is looking to hire those with qualifications in public health, epidemiology, data analysis, laboratories, emergency management and communications and media. 

Queensland Health: Queensland Health is recruiting staff across the fields of medical, nursing and midwifery, allied health, administrative support, operational and dental.  

Delivery services: Domino’s Pizza is looking to hire around 2,000 workers to join their delivery workforce. Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and Menulog are also hiring casual workers. 

BHP: BHP need an estimated 1,000 staff in Queensland and 1,500 across Australia to support its mining operations. Jobs include machinery and production operators, truck and ancillary equipment drives, excavator operators, diesel mechanics, trades assistants, electricians, cleaners and warehousing roles.  

Other Useful Resources: 

Australian government Job Hub 

The federal government has consolidated job openings from some of Australia’s biggest employers and created a website where you can search job opportunities (by employer or by location). You can access this here:  www.dese.gov.au/covid-19/jobs-hub 

StillHiring.com.au 

StillHiring is a free site created to assist people in Australia and New Zealand to find out where the jobs really are, and in what categories and locations. You can access this here: www.stillhiring.com.au 

YSPN free CV checks  

The YSPN Team is offering free CV checks and general career counselling advice to support our community during these tough times.  For help on your CV or to find ways to improve it, send your CV and/or any questions to the email address below and we’ll reply back to you with feedback. 

Email us at: cvcheck@yspn.org.au 

Note: The information above has been compiled using publicly available data and is current as at 15 April 2020. The figures and vacancies noted above are estimates only and may have changed as relevant employers continue to fill positions. While we have done our utmost to ensure the information in this article is comprehensive, up to date and as accurate as possible, we do not guarantee that this is the case and make no representation, statement or warranty to that effect.  We are not responsible for any loss or liability you may incur in connection with the information provided here. In the event you do find a mistake please contact us (via email, Facebook or Instagram) so we can issue a correction as soon as possible and minimise any further impact.  

YSPN Celebrates International Women’s Day 2020

In Blog by sakshamkapoorLeave a Comment

International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on 8 March, is an opportunity to promote gender parity across the globe and to recognise the achievements of women throughout history. For Sikhs across the world, International Women’s Day is a reminder of the legacy left by Guru Nanak Dev Ji who proclaimed the equality of men and women over 500 years ago.

However, the realities of today’s world indicate that a disparity still exists in the opportunities available to men and women. Though this is a systemic issue that stemming from a number of social and political factors, our faith reminds us that we all have a duty to play a role in bridging the gap between men and women. It is incumbent upon us, as Sikhs, to challenge the gender inequalities that exist and to actively inspire, motivate and embolden all women to become influential leaders of society.

This International Women’s Day, we were lucky to sit down with two incredibly successful women in the Australian Sikh community to ask them questions about how they became influential in their industries.

Harinder Sidhu

Former Australian High Commissioner to India

Harinder Sidhu joined the Department of Foreign Affairs after graduating a Bachelors of Economics and Law at the University of Sydney in 1987. During her career as a diplomat with the Department of Foreign Affairs, she has had postings to Cairo, Damascus and Moscow. Harinder has also worked in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Office of National Assessments, and the Department of Climate Change. In 2016, Harinder was appointed as Australia’s High Commissioner to India.

Q: Women represent only 17.1% of CEOs in the country, which evidences that a glass ceiling still very much exists in today’s world. What advice do you have for women who want to break through this glass ceiling to become leaders in their workplace?

A: The reasons for a ‘glass ceiling’ are complex and often beyond the ability of any individual woman to change. They go, for example, to cultural factors in the workplace or wider society, as much as to the qualities of the women themselves. So any advice I would have would only be partially effective.

However, if we were focusing on advice for leadership then that is more straightforward. It is often the case that women don’t put themselves up for leadership roles because they don’t see other women in those roles; or they don’t see women who resemble them in those roles.

In that case, my advice would be for women to step up to leadership in the first place. Put your hand up for leadership roles – large and small. Don’t be put off or daunted by the fact that nobody you know has done it before or that you don’t seem to ‘fit’ the organisation’s picture of a leader. Have confidence in what you can bring and contribute, even if you are the first woman to do it. And then, bring your best self to the role. It takes courage and it takes hard work, but the rewards are many and great.

Q: Research has shown that women are more likely to be perfectionists than men. Whether it is being afraid to ask for a raise, apply for a new job or ask a question in a board meeting, they are more likely than men to hold back until they are 100 per cent they can predict the outcome. How do you deal with the idea of perfectionism in your work?

A: I’m not sure I agree with your framing here. I think that women are (rationally) more cautious about putting themselves forward because the cost of failure for women is still too high; rather than because they are perfectionists. The issue is systemic, rather than a problem with women per se. But in part it is also about overcoming a fear of failure.

So, how do I deal with this? Two things: one, have a realistic (not over- or under-inflated) understanding of your professional strengths and weaknesses; and two, maintain a sense of perspective. This means learning to articulate what value you bring to the task or role. Be prepared to take risks – such as applying for a job or asking for a raise. Accept that failure is part of the deal, but it is not fatal to your prospects. Rather, treat failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Persist and don’t give up.

Jatinder Kaur

Director, JK Diversity Consultants; first Indian Woman on Australia’s Parole Board

Jatinder is the Director of JK Diversity Consultants and is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker Specialist working with migrant and refugee communities. Jatinder’s professional career spans 18 years and across various scopes of practice including research, child protection and family support. In 2010-11, she was appointed by the Australian Government on the Access & Equity Inquiry Panel. In 2017-18, she was the first Indian Sikh woman to be appointed to the Parole Board QLD and served as community member for 6 months.

Q: Women are known to encounter more barriers in their pursuit of a successful career compared to men. Some of these include the unconsciousness biases that exist in a male dominated workforce, being a victim of imposter syndrome or raising a family. As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career? How did you overcome it?

A: Despite being highly skilled and triple degree holder, I have been overlooked for senior positions within Government at a higher pay level so that tells that nepotism, racism and discrimination still exists.

How I was overcame that was to remain resilient and aspire to higher standard - keep doing good work and eventually people will seek you out for your skills, knowledge and expertise. In other words, your career journey is not a sprint but is as slow steady marathon. At times there will be a few up and down hills but eventually there comes a time for smooth ride.

Q: Research has shown that women are more likely to be perfectionists than men. Whether it is being afraid to ask for a raise, apply for a new job or answering a question, they are more likely than men to hold back until they are 100 per cent they can predict the outcome. How do you deal with the idea of perfectionism in your work?

A: Striving for success or achievement is not easy. With time, age and wisdom you realise that there is need for balance. Pursuit of wealth shouldn’t be your only goal. Having a family and good health, including mental, spiritual and physical health, are all important when striving for success. There is a need to be kind and gentle to yourself. We are only human and we will make mistakes and learn from them.

Being a Sikh woman in 2020 also requires me to reflect on Sikh faith values, principles and ethics to ensure that my professional career does not contradict my Sikh faith. Dasvandh is not just about giving money to charity, it’s also about showing kindness, compassion to less fortunate and being humble and considerate of those less fortunate. For me, my dasvandh is also my time which I give back to my community and to those who seek my help and assistance.

Some thoughts on YSPN’s Elevate 2020 Conference and the Sangat of the Future

In Blog, Events, Reflections by Dya SinghLeave a Comment

I was honoured to attend the YSPN Conference/Dinner in Melbourne on Saturday 22nd February. After seeing the professionalism and calibre of the youth who put the event together, it was heartwarming to note that our community’s future is in safe hands. You all should be very proud of yourselves. I certainly am.

I have had certain passions in this lifetime, one of which is to inspire Sikh youth to find general Sikh philosophy relevant in their lives especially as a tool for self-improvement, in addition to our visual identity and other more mainstream features. In this passion of mine, SYA has played a great part over the last 20 years, as a vehicle to promote a progressive brand of Sikh religious ideology that I represent. Now, YSPN has also begun to play a similar role, as a guide for the Sikh community globally, in promoting what is sometimes less well-recognised, the other parts of our identity, one of vibrant economic, professional and social contribution.

I have not had much—in fact any part—in the growth and development of YSPN, until yesterday (I was invited to attend as speaker for Elevate 2019, but was unable to attend). I was totally flabbergasted at the professionalism and quality of the YSPN Team that was involved, whether it was on stage, or in the production of the event. The team was extremely talented, and professional right through from the emceeing, by Malika Singh Kanwar; the speeches by Preet Toki, and Ramneek Singh; to the moderation and interviewing by Jaibeer Singh, Preety Bains, and Manisha Pannu; and finally the facilitation by the workshop captains! We certainly have a group of young professionals we can be proud of.

It’s not only in the sphere of delivering events that this team excels. Last year’s Economic Impact Report of Sikhs on Australia, is another indication of the professionalism, capability and clear direction of the organisation.

It’s immensely pleasing to see the hard work and vision that this young group of Sikh professionals espouses is not going unrecognised. The fact that the event was able to attract the likes of Mr Gurmesh Singh, the first Sikh MP in NSW Parliament, and Member for Coffs Harbour, as well as keynote speaker Mr DD Saxena, and Pam Bains, was most inspiring! That the organisation has been able to pull together an advisory board comprising some of the most eminent Sikhs in Australia and New Zealand is a reflection of its calibre and bodes very well for its future.

But where to from here? An amazingly clear direction was presented by Chair, Ramneek Singh, at the dinner, and some very inspiring Sewa (selfless service) directives were workshopped and put forward. I look forward to how the team will deliver on this over the next three years. But I feel this is not enough. Efforts must be found to draw more Sikh young professionals to become members of this network, to see its value, so that they can contribute back their own, in the vision articulated in the new YSPN strategy. It’s with the efforts of all from our community that we will be able to rise even further.

I’m confident that this is possible because what I witnessed was priceless for a young Sikh professional: the camaraderie, the networking, the professionalism, the mentoring, the ‘Sangat’. I could go on, but I’ll finish with this, that I wish I was 40 years younger, so that I too could be an active member of YSPN. I am simply full of admiration for you guys. Well done.

Thank you again for inviting me yesterday, I look forward to seeing what our youth and YSPN will deliver, and being part of this journey more fully over the years to come.

Dya Singh