Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa ”“ Australia’s new voice

Neeru Saluja - Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa









By Neeru Saluja

She is Australia’s latest sensation. Her powerful words have won everyone’s heart across the nation. Since her national television performance last week, her video has gone viral with the count touching 641K views!

And increasing by the hour.

Meet Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa, a 21 year old Indian Sikh contestant on ”˜Australia’s Got Talent’ who used spoken word poetry to raise the issue of racism in Australia. Using satire and humour to address a social issue and emphasising her identity as a Sikh brought up in Australia, Sukhjit nailed it.

“Thanks for all the compliments, it’s quite overwhelming. I never expected the Indian and Punjabi community to go crazy all over the world. I walked into an Indian restaurant the other day and everyone came up to me to meet me. I’m very happy and feel blessed to get the message across”, tells Sukhjit.

Sukhjit Kaur was born and raised in Perth and recently moved to Melbourne. She has just finished her undergraduate degree in Political Science and International Relations from UWS. She also made it to the finals of the National Australian Poetry Slam in 2014 and has spoken in the Parliament.

But while Sukhjit appeared as the most confident and bold Indian girl on stage on television, she was not always like that.

“I was a shy and a quiet girl till year 6 in school, when my teacher forced me into doing drama. I started coming out of my shell. Since then, my voice became louder and louder. I started putting myself out there for any public speaking opportunity. I became the head girl of my school and being an Indian it was a big  thing. Then I went to university and did a leadership program in Prague, where a friend introduced me to spoken word poetry”, she says, telling us about her journey.

“Spoken word poetry sounded like a perfect platform and I came back home and started writing. Spoken word is a hidden form of art since the indigenous culture – it’s all about sharing your story. My first poem on YouTube was a satire about showing off skin. I realised that I can rant like a feminist but no one will notice. Therefore, I used humour to address the issues we face.”

So are the issues you mention in your speech based on real life incidents? “Yes the incidents I have mentioned are 100% true. The lady at Coles did say that to me. The Osama Bin Laden story about my brother is true. I’ve experienced second hand racism through my parents and community. After 9/11 my world was shifted, my world was never same. This is my story but represents millions of people”, exclaims Sukhjit.

She did warn the audience her words would be controversial, but was she ready to confront backlash? “My life has prepared me for this moment. It’s the ultimate challenge. I’m a first generation Sikh and we represent our religion. I can’t put my identity aside, my Sikh values have informed me and every project I do makes me believe in social justice. As a Sikh I have learnt we are all human and will recognise each other. And that’s the message I want to lead today’s youth with”, says Sukhjit.

“My message could be confronting but it’s not confronting for me. I knew I had two minutes in front of the live audience and the public eye is on me. But I’ve got a responsibility and was adamant on using this opportunity to educate and show children from different backgrounds that is possible to be brave and believe in yourself. There is a big stigma attached to performing specially with Indian culture where we are told to become an engineer or a lawyer. My parents always taught me that as long as you put your 100% we will support you,”  tells Sukhjit.

Sukhjit was one of the 30 contestants who make it out of around 1000 applicants. Now she is waiting for the semi-final results. All the four judges gave her a big thumbs up. So what’s next? “I’m very happy with the outcome. I’m glad that I could make it. A hairy girl on TV is enough for me!

On an ending note, Sukhjit wants to send a message to all her fans. “We are facing an identity crisis in Australia. We need to start confronting it. Receiving discrimination is not fair, and it’s not only about Sikhs. Face your fears ”“ big or small. Say yes because you never know what’s at the end of the door. Don’t be afraid and put yourself out there.”



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