Consulate General of Malaysia in Melbourne, Australia
By Karina Foo
The name, Westmoreland is a rather unusual one for Sarawakian born Westmoreland Palon, the consulate general of Malaysia in Melbourne.
But it was his father who named him after the formidable commanding officer of the US Army during the Vietnam war, William Charles Westmoreland.
Palon chuckles whenever someone jokingly asks him if Charles Westmoreland was his own father or grandfather. “I was born in 1969 in the height of the Vietnam war and my dad was in the public sector so I guess the name resonates well with him,” said Palon who is a Bidayuh, a descendent of one of the many indigenous races from Kuching.
Palon took on his current role in Melbourne just three months ago, after his last post as the director for the ASEAN Political-Security Community (Malaysia National Secretariat) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before that, he had come from a distinguished diplomatic career spanning almost 20 years including stints in Chile, Singapore and the United Nations.
“I came to Melbourne only recently and I love this place because it’s a very beautiful city and there are so many Malaysians here too,” he said, noting that this is his fourth posting.
But working for the government was not what he had in mind when he graduated as a young architect. Palon worked in an architectural firm for the first two years of his career.
“At that time, the buildings and construction industry in Malaysia wasn’t doing well and someone suggested that I join the government service where I could put my knowledge of buildings and infrastructure to good use.”
But there was a twist in his aspirations as he was instead, appointed to the foreign department where he had to learn about global relationships from the ground up.
“I like to think about it as building linkages and relationships between people. But it was a steep learning curve as I had no background, yet I managed to rise to the challenge. I had a lot of good bosses, senior colleagues who were my mentors,”
His first posting in Singapore in 2000 was particularly the most challenging because he recalled that the relationship between Singapore and Malaysia was tense making the job hectic, stressful but nevertheless, exciting.
“I had to learn about different culture systems and ways of doing things in every country I was working in. So every role was different and gave me many opportunities to learn. ”
“Managing relationships, values and ideas with conflicting interests is probably one of the hardest jobs. But at the same time, it opens your eyes to value these differences of opinions as it teaches you how to communicate, negotiate and help people to understand each other.”
After such experiences, Melbourne poses a different challenge, but something that Palon is more than ready to take on.
“There are a lot of Malaysians and businesses here who are starting a new life and new ventures.
My job is to build more linkages between Australia and Malaysia, although we’re already quite well known in Australia especially with our food!
“We are constantly looking at what’s on offer in Melbourne and to show Melbournians what we have in Malaysia in hopes to boost the tourism industry back home.”
Likewise, he hopes to engage more with Malaysians visitors, new students and migrants.
He noted that Malaysian businesses including big companies are already involved in major developments here (established corporations like MRCB and SP Setia).
“Meanwhile there are smaller companies who are looking into investing their interest in other parts of the world, including Melbourne. We want to engage with them to make this possible.”
With a highly demanding job, this father of five believes that one should just be happy in life. “When it comes to people, I always assume the best and positive in them. My family brings out the positive side in me as I have become selfless. I live for my kids and try to make the best for them.”
Westmoreland听起来相当不寻常的名字，这位马来西亚驻墨尔本总领事-砂拉越出生的Westmoreland Palon，他的父亲是基于崇敬越战期间美国军队的强大指挥官 William Charles Westmoreland，而以此为之命名。
他笑着说，常有人开玩笑地问，WilliamCharles Westmoreland如果为其父亲或祖父。“我生于1969年，那是越南战争最激烈时刻，父亲是公务员，所以我想这个名字是他的共鸣点。” Westmoreland Palon是比达友族，砂拉越古晋众土著种族之一的后裔。