Experienced Sydney-based truckie Amar Singh tried his best to ignore the troubling signs of racism toward Indian drivers he saw out on the roads, hoping it would go away.
But the final straw for the owner-operator, and founder and president of charity organisation Turbans 4 Australia, was seeing photographic evidence of truckies’ air bags being slashed.
“This has gone beyond a joke, into criminal stuff now,” said Singh, who has been operating his own small Sydney metro transport company since 2004.
“These people are putting others’ lives at risk.”
To help close the divide and stamp out this abhorrent behaviour, Singh has joined forces with high-profile truckie Mike Williams to hold the industry’s first Harmony Day at the Liverpool Catholic Club in Sydney on March 20.
Aiming to promote multiculturism under the theme ‘Everyone Belongs’, the family-friendly event also includes a show ‘n shine competition with sponsor Penske stumping up $1500 for first, $1000 for second and $800 for third-placed truck.
“It is our hope that we can show we’re better together,” said Williams, also the host of the popular On The Road podcast.
“After all are we not all out there dealing with the same issues trying to feed the family and pay the bills? We don’t need divisive rubbish from within as well.”
Singh believes that Australia’s lax licencing laws are the main cause of the issues that now exist: “Drivers can get a licence now in one day and it’s not acceptable.”
“Who’s looking after this? The government is turning a blind eye and everyone is suffering.”
Singh, for one, would never put an untrained driver behind the wheel of one of his trucks, and there are many other Indian operators who have similar high safety standards in their fleets.
“I think there is a lot we can learn together, and shy away from all the stereotyping and racist rants; they don’t belong in 2022,” said Singh.
“I believe that if you want bring about change, you have to bring people together.”
The desire to foster more mateship between drivers, a core value of the Turbans 4 Australia charity, is also at the heart of Singh’s proposal to launch a new union at the Harmony Day event in Sydney this month.
Singh said the newly formed Australian Driver Welfare Union is open to drivers of all vehicles, but is quick to stress that he doesn’t want it to replicate the work of existing unions and associations.
“It’s more about driver welfare, and we want to get drivers being mates again. If someone has broken down, stop and have a yarn, instead of all this ‘us and them’ mentality.
“We want to address the real issues that we all struggle with every day.”
Lobbying to improve truckies’ rest area options in and around the main freight hubs on the east coast will be a major priority upon launching, promised Singh.
Meanwhile, Singh is thrilled that Williams has agreed to come on as an ambassador and is on the lookout for more truckies to help the cause.
“There are some really great people out there, but if the good ones stay silent, then the idiots will steer the ship into the iceberg.”
For more information, or to help support the Harmony Day and/or union, you can contact Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org or email Williams at email@example.com.
The Harmony Day on March 20 runs from 11am-5pm and is held in partnership with Multicultural NSW and Liverpool Council. Other features on the day include food stalls, multicultural performances, fireworks, jumping castle and petting zoo. “I’m proud to be part of it,” added Williams.