Manifest tribalism

“At the age of 52, I experienced my first public service racist, 2 steps above me. Of all the 27 agencies, it had to be the Department of Immigration! Tackling him head-on might have cost me my superannuation but, more importantly, would most definitely damage the agency. However, I used a clever tactic to have him back off. In the presence of my immediate senior officer, pointing to the sky, I said that he would one day be judged. I had no direct problem with him after that. Later, through another tactic, I had him admit that my ‘cultural background’ would always prevent my pro¬motion! That was the proof I needed.

A few years later, a new branch head and 2 of my fellow directors agreed between themselves that they had not attended Mass for some time. Their bonding was complete. I had such a rough time after that, that I was forced to relocate.

When the big dog pissed on me, a number of yappers in the pack tried to nip my heels. So, I raised my standard of work to such a high level that I was soon left alone by them. Yet, 3 different bosses had me moved sideways in favour of a mate; but I kept my head down and my mouth shut. I made sure that my work could never be bettered. I realised that I was totally unprotected.

Then, the racist struck again – but indirectly. About once a year, half of my 2-policy responsibilities was transferred to someone else, and I would be given a different policy to manage. This was done without any explanation; as the out¬cast, I could not expect any. It became clear to me that I was being squeezed. But I had the last laugh. I love challenge, but was careful to say nothing. I actually relished those years, annually inspecting the implementation of each of my policy responsibilities by our capital-city regional offices. I thereby became knowledgeable about all of Australia’s migrant settlement policies. … …

By the time I reached 60, I knew that I was knowledge¬able about the following policies, their rationale, and their implementation: ethnic affairs and multiculturalism, citizen¬ship, language services, refugee & humanitarian entry, and all the migrant settlement services, including child care, recreation, and catering in migrant hostels. I do believe that no one else at that stage had such a comprehensive grasp about the way Australia assisted our immigrants, a valued source of economic, social and cultural development. When I retired, I was working on fitting all the programs into a coherent policy whole.

After retirement, all these policies were set out in ‘Destiny Will Out.’ Much to my pleasant surprise, the book was subsequently warmly endorsed by a number of senior academics, relevant organisations, and prominent immigrants. The Department of Immigration bought a copy.”

(These extracts from ‘Musings at Death’s Door’ present my travails at the end of my career. To protect my sanity, I retired early. Looking back, it was not racism which motivated the rough treatment I received; it was simply tribalism, based on religion.

But I do acknowledge that the unintended consequence of such silly behaviour by those tribals was that the senior academics prominent in this area of public policy acknowledged my contribution through my first 3 books (the latter 2 having been subsequently recommended by the US Review of Books.)