Boh L Yeng
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
I was born and raised in the south of West Malaysia, partly educated in New Brunswick, Canada, USA and Australia. I migrated to Australia in August 1987 and I still believe it is a good move. Initially I missed attending San Francisco 49ers' home games, watching cable television programs particularly ESPN, CNN and HBO but the beauty of the Sydney Harbour and the stable political environment in this country won me over.
In 1988, I almost returned to USA when a Federal politician made a remark about Asians and I experienced strangers on the streets spitting at me, intentionally bumping my shoulders and telling me to go back to where I came from. I did not leave because I promised my father and myself that I would complete my combined arts/law degrees at UNSW within five years, get admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW and return to California for my Bar exam. I consider myself to be a pretty tough cookie anyway, given that I started working in my family retail business when I was just seven years of age. Also, I must admit that I am no stranger to direct discrimination.
From hindsight I am glad I did not leave because I enjoy the lifestyle in Sydney, my husband and family, social contacts, and my work in the Premier's Department. I deliberately chose not to practice law. I leave that to my husband who has blood from the first fleet convicts on his father's side and Scottish heritage on his mother's side. Rather, I enjoy using my legal, cultural and general knowledge to assist the public. My current position allows me to do so when I answer the hotline intended for Freedom of Information queries but I get queries which are not relevant but I attempt to guide them to the appropriate organisations. It is the satisfaction of knowing I have made a little contribution to someone's life that keeps me going.
I know I have to repay Australia for accepting my entire family as migrants, subsidising my tertiary education (subject to paying HECS), and most importantly, providing a stable political environment in which to live. Like many people I pay taxes but I know I need to do more. I volunteered while I was at university. I went to a few local public schools and spoke to year 10 students generally about consumer protection, employment and criminal law. I also volunteered at a community legal centre and immigration advisory centre. Those experiences brought to my attention the lack of awareness of services available to the public and consumer rights. This explains why callers are furious when they ring the hotline motivated entirely by the frustration of not knowing which organisation they should turn to and in getting the run-around.
The most enjoyable volunteer program I have participated in was being a SOCOG volunteer at the Darling Harbour Convention Centre during the Sydney Olympics. I did not get to utilise my Asian language skills as much I hoped. However, I felt proud when I observed what a melting pot society we have when I observed the people in the canteen talking to other volunteers in their mother tongues.
I hope Australia will continue to enjoy a stable political environment.