Malaysian Australians: Integrating Issues

It is fascinating to consider that the first Malay immigrant to Australia was possibly a twenty-two-year-old convict called Ajoup, who arrived in Sydney in 1837. Ajoup had been sentenced to fourteen years’ transportation to the NSW colony in Cape Town. Interestingly, I did not realise that convicts were sent from South Africa and possibly other parts of the British Empire to Australia at that time.  Aloup would get his ticket of leave in 1843. The next recorded migrations of Malays were related to the pearl diving industry in Western Australia, the sugar plantations in Queensland and labouring in South Australian mines. There were some one hundred and forty nine Malays living and working in Australia in 1871.

Malaysian Australians: Integrating Issues

It was not until the 1950s that a larger Malay presence was firmly established in this country. This was in response to the Malayan Emergency and involved students and evacuees from this military conflict. The 1961 Census registered some five thousand seven hundred plus Malaysian-born people living in Australia. The 2013 Census shows them to be the ninth largest immigrant group in the nation, with a population just under one hundred and fifty thousand strong.

So, what are some of the integration issues confronting this large group of Australians? Malaysian Australians are seen to be one of the most cohesive communities in this multicultural country. A 2007 Australian government report saw the Malaysian born people as very well integrated into their new home nation. The Australia Malaysian Singapore Association was formed in 1970 and has gone onto to organise a host of successful multicultural community events around the country. The Malay Australian Association of New South Wales was established in 1988, with a focus on the many Malay Muslims living here. Mosques have been built in Perth and Sydney.

The Malaysian Islamic community have a largely positive relationship with Australians of different faiths. This is a solid achievement when you consider the issues facing Muslims right around the globe in relation to hard-line extremist organisations like ISIS. Islamic terrorism is linked to Malaysia through the presence of Jemaah Islamiyah in that country; and its involvement in the Bali bombings. The Malaysian government, however, is staunchly opposed to these religious extremists and terrorists. A shared religion can be a difficult thing, but Muslims around the world are learning to separate their beliefs from the policing of dangerous elements within their countries. Australia was shocked when the Malaysian government recently backed Islamic law ‘hudud’, which can include amputation and stoning of guilty people. It is a challenge facing theocracies in the East, to leave behind the barbaric past when it comes to governing in the twenty first century.