My experiences on matters Aboriginal

“I have met very few Aboriginal people over half a century in Australia. How am I to meet them? Our paths are so far apart.” … …

“The first Aborigine I sighted was inebriated. I saw him hit on the head (yes the head), and chucked (yes chucked) into a paddy wagon. This was in Melbourne more than fifty years ago. In Brisbane and Perth in the following years, I saw Aborigines being harassed by the police. Since I was with an inter-varsity hockey team in Brisbane, I should have been safe. Yet, one night, walking back to the campus alone, I was scrutinised by the police in a way which I found uncomfortable.

Regrettably, in the early 1990s, I saw young Aborigines, well dressed and behaving themselves, and in the company of young whites, being harassed by the police. In the late 1990s, I was followed by a motorcycle cop, on an Easter Sunday, for many kilometres before being stopped. I fear that he had assumed that a brown fellow driving an old car sedately had to be a ‘coastal blackfellow’, with all the implications of that for the latter.

In a small seaside town north of Perth, nearly fifty years ago, I was in the company of a dark Indian, with the even features found in South India, and a pinkish Eurasian. The latter claimed proudly that he had a Malay grandmother, although this was not discernible. We had got off a small boat and, at the bar of the nearest pub, were asked if we were Aborigines. Surprised (how on earth could we be, given our appearance?), we said no — and were permitted to drink on the premises. The barmaid explained that Aborigines were not allowed to be served.” … …

A few years later, a tall Chinese Malaysian, an even-featured Sri Lankan, a tall Indian Malaysian and I (with Ceylon Tamil ancestors) happened to find ourselves in a bar in a country town. Our car had broken down, and we were lost. A group of men at the far end of the bar showed a great deal of interest in us. Then the largest fellow in the group came up to us and said something strange, and in a gruff voice: “Where are you boys from?” Seeing that this was none of his business, and taking a punt, I responded with “What’s it to you, mate?” in what my Aussie friends describe as a British accent.

He stared at me, then relaxed. Sticking out a bloody great big paw, he introduced himself by first name. We got on well. I realised later that we had been in ‘boong’ (blackfellow) country, and that the big lad must have been the local sergeant of police.” … …

“Somewhere along the line, I set about trying to help Aborigines in the public sector in Canberra to improve their skills, thereby raising their confidence and presentation. I offered training in chairmanship and public speaking (skills shown to benefit everyone); and on their own terms. They could have their own Aboriginal club within Rostrum, an Australia-wide organisation well regarded for its training capabilities, and whose graduates were in senior positions in both the private and public sectors. Or, we could provide training in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, there being no indigene employed elsewhere. Or, they could train themselves in that Department under our expert guidance. We had the skills and the will. There was, regrettably, no interest, in spite of my trying to persuade the highly-regarded Captain Saunders (ex-Army and an indigene), and the Department’s senior management that what I offered was valuable. So, that was that. Since it would have cost the Aborigines nothing, except a little effort to learn and to practice …!”

“After retirement, in my township, I met a wide range of Aborigines, a few seemingly full-blooded. There were those who were apparently well paid, driving expensive cars, and employed by Aboriginal organisations. I was told by a couple of them that, in spite of their academic or professional qualifications, there were no jobs available to them in the private sector.” … …

“The most impressive Aborigine I have met to date is a young lady, who (as she said) developed her Aboriginal heritage only after reaching adulthood. Today she is an elder, busily guiding her people, as well as building bridges between black and white. I sense, with regret, that only a minority of whites are interested in reconciliation, and in assisting the Aboriginal people to develop themselves. In the light of the country’s history, any effort to reach out to the Australian indigene in an un-patronising manner is surely a most progressive step. However, when I attended, as a member of a local adult education committee, a reconciliation study, I was impressed with the understanding and goodwill displayed by the white people participating, and the way local Aboriginal women guided the group.”

(These are extracts from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity,’ published in 2005. However, I am aware that quite a number of Australian Aborigines are now highly qualified, and hold high positions – unlike the early 1950s, when (during my psychology course) we were told that clever Aboriginal students were dropping out of high school, saying ‘What’s the use?’ How terrible that must have been for those youngsters!)




Demonising Native Title rights for indigenes

Following the decision by the High Court in the Wik case that a pastoral lease did not necessarily extinguish native title; and that, in some cases, some native title rights can survive the grant of a lease, farmers and pastoralists on Crown pastoral leases sought ‘certainty’ for themselves, by the federal government formally extinguishing native title.

Certainty also means the freedom to diversify their operations beyond the terms of existing leases. This would effectively make the leases de facto freehold, independently denying any native title right. Since many of the leases are reportedly already being used for a wide range of purposes, the question is how a pastoral lease, which is surely for pasturage of cattle, allowed full scale farming (as distinct from farming for sustenance). More intriguing was the claim that certain governments had ignored the law in granting mining leases.

The federal government then contributed to the panic that followed. What about our backyards, swimming pools, and tennis courts; can they take them too? This was asked by the newest demagogue then. The threat of Aboriginal intervention under native title will reduce the transfer value of the leases — this was yet another whinge. Apparently this has not happened yet. The federal government did little to allay these fears. Indeed, many of us realised that the government was actually fuelling irrational fears.

A white female pastoralist was reported in the late 1990s to have been fearful when her property was the subject of a native title claim by an Aboriginal community. She thought that, if successful, the Aborigines would simply take possession of her property. After she had met the claimants, she knew otherwise. Why had not the government or the media made this clear? Were they in cahoots with the powerful pastoralist lobby groups? It seems so.

She learnt that the Aborigines’ aim was co-existence.  They only wanted access to significant sites to conduct cultural activities for young people. She was quoted in the press as saying: “When sheep and cattle were moved in, the land the indigenous people lived off was badly affected. They had to find other ways to survive, and the problems were compounded by the aggressive acts of the pastoralists and the local white authorities. During the 1920s and 1930s indigenes were herded together in designated Aboriginal reserves, with little shelter and no water. The communities were split up, their culture fragmented. They gravitated towards the edges of towns … ended up outcasts, on the fringes of white society”.

Where politicians had promised ‘certainty’ to the pastoralists, she reportedly felt that she had been kept in the dark, misled, and betrayed. She was further quoted as follows: “… people like me were being used as tools, in what was obviously a political agenda being used to continue the hurt and dispossession of people who have been hurt their whole lives”; and “… there are people fanning the flames and spreading misinformation”.  She also quoted the Prime Minister of the day as claiming publicly that it would be possible for 78% of Australia to be under ‘veto’ (for development) by Aborigines. Has the government resiled from this ridiculous claim?

Her comment to that was: “I’ve no doubt that most Australians would have believed him. If I hadn’t informed myself, I’d have believed him as well”. Her final comments are noteworthy. “I did not hunt the (Aborigines) off their land: but what I have today I have partly because others did. If I inherited the fruits of the pioneers’ achievements, I also inherited a debt to those they dispossessed”.

That says it all. And what a wonderful human being — a beacon of light. This enlightened white lady has reached out to the Aboriginal people. She is also educating people in her situation about the need to work with Aboriginal people.

As asked by a respected academic in another, but comparable, context: “If lying comes to seem an acceptable political means to a worthwhile end, what will prevent democracy degenerating into a struggle between elites whose relationship to the electorate goes no deeper than the conduct of an auction …?” In any such auctions, the Aborigines will not be viable bidders.

(The above extracts are from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ Since the book was published only in 2005, I do not believe that the Australian Constitution will be mended any time soon to recognise the Australian indigenes as the First Nation Peoples of Australia.)    




Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.
The policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all.
Action to be effective must be directed to clearly conceived ends.
Failure comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles.
I have become a queer mixture of the East and the West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere.
(From BrainyQuote.  Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India and a central figure in Indian politics before and after independence.

I have read his book ‘Glimpses of World History’ – compiled from the letters he wrote to his daughter from jail. He had been incarcerated because he wanted India to be free of the British. I was impressed with his perspectives and knowledge.

 I was 13 when I used to read a chapter each evening to my family, just when the Japanese Army had begun to drive the British from Malaya. By the time Japan had conceded defeat – in 1945 – it was clear that European colonialism in Asia would end soon – thanks to Japan.)      







RELIGION and I (Part 2)

There seems to be clear evidence, comparable to the stability of patterns found within chaos, of purpose within the complexity and apparent unpredictability of life, and of a uni-directional path of species evolution, and the personal development of many individual humans.  In the event, all that a Creator had to do was to set up a mechanism capable of evolving by itself, even as it related to the sentient forms within creation, and these forms too would evolve.  An arm’s-length Creator, not an interventionist god of the kind who baffles supplicants and frustrates the priesthood, makes good sense.

Such an objective analytic approach would fit life as experienced.  There seem to be trajectories for the universe we think we know, for the observable galaxies, individual suns, and planets, and for us occupants on planet Earth.  The pattern of an individual’s existence and the associated path of any personal development reflects, in my view, what might be termed as personal destiny. This is not fate, not something unavoidable.  It is a pathway for one’s current life created by each of us for ourselves, both reactively and through free will, during past lives.  With free will, one can also choose, during each life, to obey the imperatives of one’s own self-crafted destiny or respond in some other manner, much in the way a motorist might behave in a well-policed crowded city.

There is no need for the modified Hinduism of the New Age theorists of the Western world.  New Agers like the idea of a reincarnating soul choosing (often in a dialogue with appropriate others) the life to be led.  This deterministic Western approach (I can choose to be whatever I want to be) denies the concept of karma as an automatic and autonomous mechanism.  Worse still, the millions of babies born into a life of suffering in under-developed nations can be held by the New Agers to have chosen that suffering!  Unfortunately, there are Hindu gurus whose lack of understanding of karma also allows them to ignore the suffering of fellow Hindus as something deserved!!

How do I see karma?  In the Hindu framework I have set out above, it reflects the confluence of reincarnation and the law of cause and effect. 

As we paddle as best we can on our personal rivers of life, we exercise our free will to pay our personal cosmic debts, to access any opportunities to learn whatever we need to learn for our personal development, and to prepare for the next life.  We thus effectively create, as a consequence of bumbling through life as best as possible, the cliffs through which our river of life will flow during our next sojourn on Earth, and the rocky impediments and chasms we will find on the way.  How we deal with these and the cross-currents created by other personal destinies related to us will determine our future lives.  No gods, saints, or spirits are therefore necessary as determinants.  However, they may be able to intrude, to help, if they choose to;  presumably they too have free will.

Since each of us is an integral part of a number of collectives, there will result a complex network of personal destinies.  The expected web, and possibly nested mesh, of personal destinies would presumably be reflected ultimately in tribal and possibly national destinies.  These might influence species development, although a major contributor might also be genetic mutations, which are truly accidents of nature.

(The above are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)

RELIGION and I (Part 1)

As a primary school boy, I was sent to the Pilleyar (Ganesha) temple at examination times, although I topped my class by a large margin every term, except once.  I also accompanied my parents at other times.  We were ardent in our faith.  My father, having overcome a serious illness at about 33, died suddenly at 47, when I was 18.  Within 3 years I then lost the family’s savings through a spectacular academic failure.  So much for faith and fervent prayer.

My future was thereby destroyed, as clearly forewarned after my father’s demise by a perambulating yogi, but unheeded by us.  I doubt that my mother and I were competent to absorb such a warning.  In any event, surely what had to happen had to work itself out.  Late in life I realised that what the yogi had done was to turn my mother’s vision towards Australia, which was in a direction not normally taken by students from British Malaya seeking an overseas qualification.  My folly (or was it my destiny?) led to my mother and my sisters being impoverished.  So much for temple rituals and the priesthood.  I gave away God, Hinduism and all religio-cultural rituals.

Then learning and logic took over!  Studying the belief systems of the simpler societies at my university, and dipping into some anthropology, sociology, psychology, and the major religions, I realised that there has been, and is, an innate need in many, if not most, of us to understand what we humans are, and our place in the Cosmos.

I realised further that:  the complexity and beauty, as well as the observable but inadequately explicable aspects of the experienced world;  the exceedingly complex patterns of inter-linked cause and effect, action and reaction, and the inter-dependencies of the physical, chemical and electromagnetic forces affecting us;  the uniformity, the invariability, the predictive capacity of the laws of nature;  the ecological balance between mobile and fixed forms of life;  the intuitive yearning by sensitive souls for communion with sublime or higher forces not clearly understood;  and the inferred influence of the spirit world, all of which affect our lives, could not have occurred purely by chance.  Instead, they might, I felt, reflect the mind and soul of a Creator.  How else could all that have occurred?  By chance?  Is that another name for an inexplicable cause, akin to the gods of simpler people?

I did conclude, logically, that there had to be a Creator of all that exists.  I then noted, with great interest, that an academic and confirmed atheist had reached the same conclusion after a lifetime of non-belief in a Creator, for exactly the same reasons.  There has to be a Creator, he now accepts, thereby upsetting most severely his former fellow-believers in that causal mechanism named Chance.  Like me, he doesn’t claim to know; only that a creator god makes (unverifiable) sense.


(This is an extract from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society.’)



Past-life influences

When a little grandson struggled, while seated on his mother’s hip, to reach me each time I visited my daughter, and then hung on to me, I felt that this baby knew me. He had to be the son my wife and I lost 30 years before. My wife had a similar feeling.

Then I met a 6-month old baby relative who seemed to be angry or unhappy for no reason. He was supported by loving family and other relatives. At 3 years, he was still unco-operative and grumpy. By 7, he was a normal happy child. I surmised that a past life had bothered him severely initially.

Reliable research shows that some young children, all over the world, do remember their most recent past life; and that, by about 7 years of age, that memory is totally lost. I have seen videos of young children, clearly under 7, playing with great skill the piano, or the drums, or ‘conducting’ a musical program (in one instance playing with an orchestra). Only inbuilt soul-memories of past-life skills could explain such proficiency, but without the child being necessarily conscious of anything unusual.

Yet, I have had a frightening psychic ‘flashback’ of being buried alive. It was a very real experience, which took me about 3 days to overcome; I was way over 60 years old then! My then attempt to delve into my past lives, through auto-hypnosis, produced scenes involving red sand, again and again.

My urge, when facing overt discrimination, to wield a scimitar, has implications; perhaps of a deliverer of steely justice in another life. Yet, I have never seen a scimitar, but do feel an attraction. My wife noted that, asking why. Perhaps it is a past-life memory, I responded.

As well, when I was sketching designs for fabric painting, my initial designs replicated the shape of the beautiful mosques of Central Asia. So I discovered many years later. Perhaps this is why, in spite of being a Ceylonese, I was born amongst a tolerant Muslim people, the Malays.

Then there was an English fellow-migrant. She and I became blood-brother and sister soon after we met; there was a strong bond between us, discernible to others. Another psychic flashback showed that we had been twin brothers; our skin colour was white. We supported each other psychologically through turbulent lives, although separated by oceans for much of the time.

A local psychic healer, assisted by her Spirit Healer, told me about a couple of my past lives. Her intention was to alleviate physical pains reflecting past-life trauma. She was successful.

Another clairvoyant told me recently that she could see me in my scimitar-wielding past life. This view coincided with my earlier views of Central Asia. Was she reading my mind? Or, do clairvoyants, with assistance from the spirit realm, see scenes of relevance to the client?

In any event, since past-life memories are no doubt attached to one’s soul, could they not occasionally seep into one’s conscious mind or unconsciously affect one’s thoughts? Am I not my soul? With an accumulation of memories from many Earthly lives?



Destiny-formation and power

My mind is challenged by the following: “If you hold others as fully responsible for their own destiny, you ennoble them by treating them as equals.”

How could we humans be held as fully responsible for our personal destinies? Yet, Hindu (and Buddhist) philosophy holds that, through the reincarnation process, we (who are equals in the eyes of God) shape our future lives. Thus, we may find ourselves in each life paddling along our personal river of destiny sitting on a flimsy branch of a tree, or a solid log, or a frail sampan, or an oar-less boat. But we surely cannot be fully responsible for what happens during each Earthly life.

For example, consistent with the parameters of my destiny, I was given appropriate genes, parents, and teachers to cope with whatever may happen in my life. None of this was predictable. How could I have been responsible for the major events of my life? Much of it was quite painful. Even if my past lives had influenced the trajectory of my present life, and the lessons I have to learn, both life experiences and logic imply that I cannot control external impacts in a complex inter-connected universe. Then there is chance.

How others view me matters only if they have power over my life. Examples of the truly powerless are slaves, the lower castes of India, minority tribes everywhere, women in patriarchal societies, feudal subjects, workers in under-developed countries, etc. etc. Those caught within these categories cannot, in fairness, be held to be fully responsible for their current destiny paths.

Therefore, does not reality overlay religious philosophy? Yet, in day-to-day life, should we not view the materially dispossessed as our spiritual equals? And do what we can to lift their Earthly hopes? And thus for them to seek a better future life, while accepting and adapting to the vicissitudes of their current lives.

The perennial question is – how does society (through its rulers) ameliorate the inordinate greed which exaggerates the inequalities of life? Those at the top of the politico-economic tree usually want more cake from everyone; while those near the base of the tree cannot but seek a slice of any bread earned by those some way up the tree.

For most of us, destiny is to be powerless, except in relation to matters of the spirit. Then we can soar.