Putting down coloured roots in White Australia

I wrote about the following experiences in the mid-1990s. I was told by a professor of history and politics that they depict a sliver of Australia’s post-war history. They also show the growing acceptance by Australians of Asians in their domain.

“Accepted for citizenship while Australia was still officially white, I worked for the Australian government in such interesting fields as ethnic affairs (looking after the settlement needs of migrants); in the screening of foreign investment in Australia (to ensure that it was not against the national interest); the provision of assistance to secondary industry by government (ensuring the continued inability of Australian industry to be competitive globally); and the artistic (but very reasonable) creation of balance of payments statistics. Indeed, in 1963, I was the first public official (in the then Tariff Board) to argue for reduced import tariffs; naturally, I was disparaged as a ‘free trader.’ Yet, within 6 years, the term came into fashion.

I also made a small contribution to the education system in the national capital (in part by being the foundation chairman of a school board); to career protection in the Australian public service – by leading, for seven years, a trade union sub-committee working on career protection, i.e. improving the equity and efficiency of selection procedures (I received a Meritorious Service Award from my union); and involved myself in a couple of other community concerns (including overseas aid and public speaking for school children).

Twice a year, the local press is likely to refer to two on-going events which I initiated. That is, I believe that I integrated into the Australian nation quite successfully and productively, but without losing my cultural identity or without losing sight of myself.”

In mid-2015, I know that being bi-cultural is no big deal; but one should not expect a foot to do what a hand can do. Apart from that, it is interesting being an insider and (simultaneously) an outsider; the challenges are sociological, mental and moral.