‘I might have nostalgic ideas’

Jacques van der Merwe artist. Immigrant Portrait from Malaysia. Artist Kevin Leong
D.O.B. // 23-10-1970
DATE INTERVIEWED // 31-8-2014
COUNTRY OF BIRTH // MALAYSIA
COUNTRIES LIVED IN // MALAYSIA, AUSTRALIA
DATE OF ARRRIVAL IN AUSTRALIA // AUGUST 1982
KIND OF ENTRANCE // CHILD WITH PARENTS

Kevin is Chinese, born in Malaysia. His father thought his family would have a better fighting chance in Australia. The country was very different when he arrived.

Kevin was born in 1970 in Malaysia, ethnic Chinese. I’ve been here since I was eleven, that’s now 32 years.  I arrived here as my family immigrated here as skilled immigrants. My father studied at university here, and he decided that his family would have a much better fighting change in Australia. I arrived in a country that is very different than the one Australia is today, I guess what we now have is a multicultural Australia; much less developed. 

I came here at the beginning of my teens, I do not know much else.  I have a more township idea of Malaysia; I never lived there as an adult.  I have no regrets coming here, and was treated very well.  There are things keeping me here, I have a partner here, we have a fairly established life here, but are so many things in Australia that are changing that it become less and less a place…. it is becoming a place that become less and less hospitable. It becomes a country with a huge income inequality; you become less and less one of the chosen ones.  And that pervades in many different ways, through institutions, through the social structures. It is very different from the country I remembers 20 years ago, when it was less materialistic, there was much more a fair go.  There seemed to be more resources around, but I think in reality it is not much different, the distribution is different. Having said that, that is probably the case in lots and lots of different places around the world. 

There are advantages and disadvantages.  I think Australia was a less interesting place. It was diversity, it wasn’t until I went to University that I heard somebody said that ‘I’m really boring’.  A lot of the changes has been really, really good. It’s identity, even in the 80’s, that was a lot more the cultural trench; it was pronounced.  But it has become a more confident country, that is definitely one of; things like the Sydney Olympics formed a very different nation.