Malaysian-born author and educator Padma Singh moved to Australia nearly 22 years ago. She speaks to Ben Cameron
What drew you to Australia?
My husband and I decided to migrate with our two children to Australia in the late ’80s because of the rapidly changing political climate in Fiji. One of my sisters sponsored my family to migrate to Australia. We bought our home in Kealba in 1994.
And you’ve been there ever since?
Yes – Kealba is a beautiful suburb where multiculturalism is alive and well. People are friendly and courteous.
Was it a culture shock at first?
Living in the Brimbank area has been a learning curve for me. When we migrated here, we had our ingrained fear whether we will be accepted cordially in this Kealba community. Our fears were unwarranted. We had no problem settling down as our neighbours made us feel welcome.
Any particular local spots you like to visit?
Both my husband I are members of the Brimbank Leisure Centre. People are friendly and most welcoming. We have a great time sharing life’s experiences … irrespective of ethnic origin, we connect.
Our favourite shopping places are the Keilor Downs Plaza and St Albans. Over the years, our nodding acquaintances have now become our friends. I presume this is how it is in most suburbs, but from our personal experiences we know that this is how the world should be.
How close have you become with your neighbours?
We look after one another. For example, when someone is away, the other neighbour keeps a look out for the security of their home, collects their mail. From shared interest in gardening and books, the caring, nurturing spirit that exists among some of the neighbours is truly heart warming.
Your first publication, Feelings, was released back in Fiji just before you left for Australia. Why the big gap in your writing?
I had intended to keep writing, but when I arrived in Australia, I realised this was almost impossible as my husband and I had to work hard to establish a comfortable life for our family. So I had to put my writing on hold until my retirement in 2013, when I began collecting ideas for an anthology of short stories and poems, Feelings 2.
What was the catalyst for this book?
We are a melting pot of cultures, here in Australia – we should put aside fears, suspicions and prejudices and unite as one people. I sincerely hope my readers will take the journey with me when they read my little book.
Given your education background, what’s the most important lesson you’ve taught?
I have always instilled in my students the need to be individuals of strong principles and good values, and to contribute towards nation building and to live in mutual co-operation and good will towards all.