‘Look! Black fellows. Over there!’

Could it be that the descendants of those who killed or drove away from their tribal lands the traditional occupants of those lands (and then did everything they could to destroy their culture) are instinctively fearful of the prospect of some superior species dishing out the same treatment to them? In the mid-Fifties, I believe that some judge or Royal Commissioner declared that, as the Aborigines had lost their land to a superior culture, there was nothing more to be said. I thought then that this gave the Chinese and Indian nations a good excuse for overrunning Australia.

To be fair, my experience (and that of my fellow Asians) was not all prejudice and discrimination. When it happened, it was sharp and somewhat brutal. But we also got our own back occasionally. One busy Saturday, three of us brown fellows were walking down a main street when we sighted three of our friends, all brown, on the other side. We stopped and began to shout very loudly, “Look, black fellows. Over there,” again and again, pointed to our friends. The expressions on the faces of those walking past were worth recording for posterity. But one or two actually smiled – they understood.

By and large, the Aussie man-in-the-street was (and is) a fair person. Indeed, it soon became clear to me that Australia was egalitarian. There was none of the nasty expressions of class or the smells of caste I had felt back home; if anything, the Aussie worker tended to sneer at the more affluent (because his belly was as full as theirs) for their pretensions to status. The Aussie’s attitude was to lop off either the heads or the feet of the tall poppies. I found that the ordinary Aussie believed very strongly in equality and fair treatment (of white men, that is).

There is still talk about how someone respected is a “white man” (sometimes said to me!). The ordinary Aussie was tolerant (in the main) of other people, provided that there were not too many of them around … … In fact, I have been told quite often that I was acceptable as a fellow resident but that the country did not need any more people like myself.

… … Then, it was very clear that Australia had to be kept white, Christian, and everybody at the same level. Today, it is more near-white, almost Christian, and to hell with egalitarianism and equity. Interestingly, many a statement of racial prejudice (about others) is spoken in my presence – even on a one-to-one basis – suggesting that, at least, I might be an honorary white.

The most striking feature of Australia that I observed then was that of the equality of white men. At least that was what was intended. … … This emphasis on equality was also reflected, I noticed, in that there was never any reference to peasants in Australia. Newspapers carried stories of peasants in Asia and everywhere else, but there were apparently no peasants in Australia. Obviously, no Aussie did anything that could be described as peasant work; or he had so much personal dignity granted to him both by intent and by income that he could not possibly be described as a peasant.

In this context, I read of an Aussie grazier who was being questioned by an immigration official at Rangoon Airport. The official did not understand the term ‘grazier’. When the tourist explained what he did, the immigration official exclaimed, “Now I understand,” cancelled the word ‘grazier’, and replaced it with the word ‘peasant’. The tourist thought this so funny (given his social status in Australia) that, on his return home, he told the press.

(These extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out’ are intended to throw a little light upon some now out-dated attitudes in the Land of Oz)