Author: Melody Teh
Storyteller: Michael Teh
Community Language School: Cherrybrook Chinese Language School
Main School: John Purchase Public School
My dad's memories of Malaysia and his life in Australia.
My name is Melody Zse Yin Teh. I am currently studying Year six at the Cherrybrook Chinese Language School. Below is the interview I conducted with my dad, Michael Teh on his migration experience to Australia.
Where do you come from?
I came from Malaysia. However, my grandparents originated from China. They sailed on a boat from China to Malaysia in the early 1900s.
Describe the town or village where you lived?
We lived in a small house in a town near the mouth of a river called Kuala Selangor. In those days most people were fishermen because it was near the river. So many of the houses were built on stilts.
How was your living environment like in Malaysia? Describe a typical day for your family – what did you do – what work did your family members do – what sort of food did you eat?
Well, I was born in a big family of six brothers and two sisters. I am the youngest in the family. My father was a teacher and he was always being transferred to other suburb to teach. So we moved around a lot and finally we settled in Tanjong Karang. Unfortunately, when I was only five years old my father died after suffering from a long illness. In order to support all of us my mother started her own business as a hawker. She did many other odd jobs like washing and ironing, child minding, food catering etc. Our daily life was very simple and unexciting. We would usually eat rice with vegetables since meat and fish were expensive at that time.
Describe a special family day – what sort of celebrations?
Chinese New Year was the biggest festival and it was our happiest day in the year. Once a year my mother would buy new clothes for us and we ate better food then usual, like meat. She would then take us around visiting friends and relatives.
What was your journey like? What was your arrival in Australia like?
I came to Australia on a seven-hour flight. The journey was enjoyable and pleasant. My arrival was very simple. My sister, who was already a permanent resident in Australia, came and picked me up from the airport.
Where did you live when you first arrived? What did you think of Australia when you first arrived?
I stayed with my sister's family in a two bedroom flat for about six months in Melbourne. Well, my first impression about Australia was that it is a huge country with little population, the streets are clean, the environment is beautiful and it is a real democratic and developed country.
I studied in USA and had lived there a few years so I imagined Australia would be quite similar to USA.
Have your thoughts about Australia changed?
Not really, Australia is still a clean and friendly country to live in and true democracy exists here.
What are some funny experiences?
Well, when I first came to Australia everybody called each other 'mate' in their Australian slang. It sounded to me like Mike. That's why I thought everybody was called Michael.
What are some bad experiences?
One day when I was walking along Darling Harbour somebody yelled out "Chinky go back to your own country!" I thought to myself may be I didn't belong here, even though I have been granted permanent residency in Australia. I was shocked to have experienced such racial discrimination in Australia.
How is Australia changing?
Australia has become more multicultural over the years. The Australians are more tolerant to other people of different races.
How are you changing?
I can speak better English and I am more an Australian. I do what Australians do but I haven't really changed much.
Do you feel at home here? Why?
Yes, I do feel at home here. I fit in well and my neighbours are friendly and kind. I have many friends here.
What is it like for you here and now?
Life for me is good here. I now live comfortably in Cherrybrook. I am the president of the Cherrybrook Chinese Community Association. I do lots of community volunteer work like Red Cross Door Knock Appeal and Clean up Australia day and the like.
Australia is a multicultural country and this is where I realized my dream and called it HOME!