Harry Walia: ‘Giving back through community work’

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It you are determined to bring a change nothing can deter your spirits. There are few people who with their continuous efforts are always eager to benefit the community in whatever capacity they can and one such example is Harmohan Singh Walia alias Harry Walia as he is popularly known among the Sydney siders.

Harry Walia’s proactive approach and his commitment towards the community makes him a strong community leader who has been tirelessly serving the Indian community since 1991.

His contributions towards the Indian community living in Australia are enormous.  He has helped the Indian migrants in Australia in many ways. Besides offering his voluntary services through many events, Harry has always contributed to the well being of the Overseas Indian Students by offering free guidance through seminars on immigration, jobs and living in Australia.

Even during the attacks on the Indian students in Australia, Harry played a significant role being a part of the five member team  constituted by the Consul General  of India in Sydney  to help the Indian Overseas students. Walia had also the honour of carrying the Olympic torch in Greenacre, Sydney.

Sharing his memories from Sydney Olympics, Walia says, “I can’t forget the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  The day I received a letter from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Headquarters congratulating me on being selected for the Olympic torch relay, it was really a proud moment for me. The letter stated that I am an Ambassador of Australia, a role that embodies community values, spirit and national pride. On September 12, 2000, I had the honour of carrying the Olympic torch in Greenacre, Sydney”.

Walia remained General Secretary at the Australian Sikh Association Inc., Glenwood (Parklea) from 2001 – 2003 and a Stage Secretary from 1993 – 1997 at Sikh Mission Centre, Austral.

Walia was one of the candidates for the Australian Labor Party in March 2004 council elections. He was again unanimously selected as a Labor candidate for Mitchell seat for the October 2004 federal elections for MP.

Harry Walia is also a founder member of “Global Organization of People of Indian Origin” (GOPIO) in Australia, who joined GOPIO in 2008. Currently he is a Life Member and Chairperson of GOPIO International’s Bylaws, Policies and Procedures Committee (World-wide).

He initiated “GOPIO Youth Achievers Award Night” in 2010 to recognize HSC students of New South Wales, who achieved ATAR 99.00 and above. Also, students who achieved highest marks in Indian language, Drama, Dance and Music were awarded. Youth under 20 years of age who achieved state or national level recognition in sports in Australia were also honored.

Being a part of GOPIO, Harry Walia has raised funds for the victims of Victorian & New South Wales bush fires, tsunami in Samoa, earthquake in Indonesia and floods in Fiji. , raised funds for Indian overseas students who became victims of violence in Sydney, organised blood donation camps, organized  Health Summits and seminars

In 2010 he took another initiative in the form of “Caring & Sharing” charity event for under privileged school children in India through GOPIO Sydney North West chapter..

Harry migrated to Australia along with his family in 1991. Basically hailing from Hoshiarpur , Harmohan Walia did his basic schooling from Hoshiarpur and later did a degree in Mechanical engineering from Guru Nanak Engineering College Ludhiana.

After graduating as a Mechanical Engineer, Walia started working in Escorts Ltd,  Bahadurgarh , Patiala as a Quality Assurance Manager. He worked there for 15 years and alongside also did Masters in Industrial Engineering from Thapar University (Patiala) and a Diploma in Production Management from Punjabi University.

“While I was working with Escorts Ltd, a relative of mine suggested me to apply Australian visa under skilled category. I filled the form and the process was going on. Meantime, I was also looking for better opportunities and in 1988 got a job as a Deputy General Manager in Jai Springs, Yamuna Nagar, where I worked nearly for two years. While working there, I got my visa for Australia in 1990. By that time I was really enjoying my job and was well settled, so I was quite apprehensive whether to opt for the new opportunity or not. But everyone told me not to lose such a good opportunity and in February 1991, I landed in Sydney along with my family”, tells Harry Walia.

Sharing his early memories of migration Harry says, “It was not an era of internet and letters were the only mode of communication, so before leaving India, I wrote a letter to Amarjit Rehill , one of  my known person’s in Sydney. The day we arrived in Sydney, I was asking the fellow passengers about some Gurudwara’s nearby to find some accommodation but to my surprise Amarjit came to pick us up. We stayed along with him at Lidcombe for almost one week. By that time he completed all the formalities and we got a unit in Auburn”.

“After coming here, the real struggle started.  I decided to do few more courses to acquire more knowledge about my profession and after a long struggle, I got a job in Seven Hills in some Electronic company and then afterwards I worked in different industries such as electrical, electronics, automotive, chemical, Defence etc,” Walia adds.

“Slowly things settled down and I actively started taking part in community work. Now it has become my passion. I am always ready to do whatsoever I can do for the community. When you migrate to a foreign country, you hardly know anyone and that is the hardest part. I struggled a lot and that is why I started offering free guidance through seminars on immigration, jobs and living in Australia. As people helped me,  I am trying to give back through my community work”, adds Walia

Combining his passion for community work and his long-term stint as a broadcaster (Punjabi language) for SBS, Harry Walia   also worked as a news reader for Punjabi community radio programs in Sydney (98.5 fm), Brisbane (98.1 fm) and Perth (95.3 fm) from 1993 to 2001.

Walia was honored by Hon. Vayalar Ravi, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs with NRI Community Leadership Award in Australia on 10 January 2010 at Ramada Plaza, New Delhi. The award ceremony was organized by the India Empire publication, where 16 distinguished personalities of the world from 11 countries were honored.

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