Bilateral cultural shocks

Soon after World War Two, young, well-educated youth (reflecting the high quality of colonial British education) from the Indian sub-continent (including Ceylon, now Sri Lanka), Malaya (including Singapore) turned for the first time, as fee-paying students, to Australian universities. I was one of these.

The sudden arrival of young, confident, coloured people was clearly a great cultural shock to many of the Aussies of that era, no matter how well-dressed, how well-spoken, how well-behaved we were. ‘Why don’t you go back home, you black bastard?’ was shouted at me in the then fashionable Collins Street arcade in 1949, even while I sported a light-tan skin and an expensive outfit. I later realised that, to the Aussies of that era, there was no word in their lexicon for a tinted skin colour other than black. Oral displays of prejudice, which is only an attitude or feeling, and acts of overt discrimination (involving a denial of normal non-selective entitlements) were commonplace until the oldest generation of Australians died. Then life for us improved.

See my memoir ‘The Dance of Destiny’ for details, especially Part 2. (Note: This book was also recommended by the US Review of Books, and reviewed most favourably by Kirkus Discoveries and BookReview.com)

It goes without saying that the initial response by so many Australians was a culture shock for me, as I had not experienced any prejudice of any kind until I arrived in Australia.