Oct 20, 2013

Multicultural day and multicultural Australia

I love multicultural day at my sons' school. The school flashes up the make of its students, and for a very small school, it's impressive because it almost reads like a UN list.

We sing songs about embracing diversity... (like this one, which made me tear up the first time I heard it)

Kids are taught that different cultures are fun and interesting. They look forward to the day and wear their traditional wear with pride. We are reminded that wherever we are, we should always remember our roots. And for one utopian day, different strokes are for all good for different folks...

When we decided to move here, people said a lot of negative things to me...

"Why move to another country where you will be a second class citizen?"
"There is a lot of racism, and bullying, I had it bad when I was a student there."
"You won't get far career-wise, as long as you are the wrong colour and speak with the wrong accent."

I am not na├»ve, and multiculturalism has a long way to go, but it is not an easy topic to tackle and no nation has a claim to success.  Still, I salute the Aussies for trying. Do you know what an Aussie said to me when I first arrived?
"Welcome to Australia."
I don't think I could have said that to people who arrive in Malaysia by the truckloads, a Bangladesh or an Indonesian, for example.

I also salute Australia for its efforts. Whatever the personal feelings and private practices, the official mantra is that discrimination is illegal. This says from top down, what is right and what is wrong.

In Malaysia, it is the reverse - the government plays divide and conquer and the different races and cultures are pitted against each other. Discrimination is everywhere, and if you are of the right race, you get to buy property at lower prices (yes, by law, 7% less than everyone else), and get to enter university even if your grades are much lower than someone else of the 'wrong' colour. What many Malaysians would give just to hear their government say that discrimination based on race and the colour of skin is wrong...

Asked to "go home" here? I was born in Malaysia, and my parents before me and their parents before them, and headlines in government-run newspapers often quote some person asking us to leave. Be a second class citizen here? I was a second class citizen in my own country.


  1. Well put. The same applies to India, where I come from.

  2. I like this post. I'm happy you made the right decision.

  3. Thanks for reading!
    Anphy, hope you and bub are doing well!