The author ends ‘DESTINY WILL OUT: the experiences of a multicultural Malayan in White Australia’ (published October 1997. Out of print. Ebook available from Amazon Kindle Direct) with this expectation: Without any interference from priests and politicians, the youth of a wide mixture of ethno-cultural Australians will evolve into an integrated nation, ignoring differences in skin colour and upheld by the nation’s traditional ‘fair-go’ ethos.
Imagine a lightly-coloured Ceylonese Malayan boy, brought up in a British territory (but who had not experienced any discrimination), where the multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-coloured people co-existed with mutual tolerance. He entered Australia in 1948 as a fee-paying student at the prestigious University of Melbourne.
To his disgust, he observes a roaring sectarian religious divide, a colonial mentality, and racism. He faced discrimination in service in shops, finding accommodation, and seating on public transport. He was described as a blackfellow (there being no other term in the local lexicon for coloured people other than the indigene). In a fashionable arcade, in spite of being expensively dressed, he was loudly asked “Why don’t you go back home, you black bastard?,” in a very aggressive tone. He did wonder at such ignorance, thinking that a similar question should have been addressed to Cook & Co, the white invaders, when they had arrived to dump the products of Britain’s cultural cleansing.
This was White Australia in the 1950s. Yet, this coloured lad eventually reached the rank of Director in the federal public service, becoming responsible progressively for each of the immigrant settlement policies offered through the then Department of Immigration & Ethnic Affairs during the 1980s. However, he suffered discrimination even within that department – both racial and tribal (the word mass had a weighty influence with the ‘tribals’).
This book weaves fluidly his settlement experiences with his work experiences, in a readable manner, with no bitterness. What was encouraging were the endorsement from senior academics, a number of private agencies, and a variety of immigrants and others. Although out of print, copies of the book can be found in the National Libraries of Singapore, Malaysia and Australia and the State and Territories Libraries of Australia, as well as the top 20 Australian universities.
This book is highly relevant in the light of claims in the 2010s by some ethnic community leaders that racial discrimination legislation is necessary to protect immigrants from being hurt and humiliated by oral insults. Strangely, the initially unwanted non-English speaking European immigrants and the English-speaking Asian students did not get excited by ignorant White Aussie yobbos mouthing off in an effort to protect white British space. As yobbos are endemic, we just ignored them. We did not feel victimised. I say this from my extensive contacts with immigrants.
A relevant review
Destiny Will Out: The Experiences of a Multicultural Malayan in White Australia by Raja Arasa Ratnam is an interesting book that will give readers a glimpse into the life of Asians living in Australia. The author narrates his personal experiences along with his life and adjusting to Australian life and culture. The author’s observations on Australian life as an immigrant and his perception give the book a genuineness and honesty that readers will appreciate. The humaneness and the concern enable readers to grasp the author’s feelings, emotions, and experiences.
I found the book very fascinating because it exposes readers to a totally new way of life in a foreign land; the author’s comments and opinions are strongly expressed, making the narration more effective. The book also tells readers about the extensive research the author has done on topics relating to tribal population, ethnicity, and other details regarding the culture of Australia.
The perception about Asian children and their education in Australian society is quite an interesting fact and he speaks about racism, the existence of colonial mentality, and the discrimination he was subject to as a student at university. But what makes the book likable is that it has been written with no malice or bitterness and just as the author’s experiences as an immigrant. A heartwarming story that connects well with honesty.” – “Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite 5 stars