Race Discrimination Commissioner
Sometimes, you can have the best of both worlds – a little bit of Malaysia and much more of Australia. This can help one to understand the bigger picture of societal issues and affairs.
Needless to say, Australia’s new Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan is having the best of both worlds and he is using it for the benefit of others.
“New migrants tend to compare their former country to Australia, or the country they’ve migrated to. You can’t compare because they are two different countries with two different communities. So you have to make the best of what you’ve got and enjoy what you have. People come to Australia because it’s different, but if I was in Malaysia, I will enjoy Malaysia.
New migrants have to adapt and stop trying to live like how they once did in the countries they’ve left,” Chin Tan said.
A TOUGH JOB FOR A TOUGH SITUATION
Born in Malaysia and then coming to Australia for studies and finding his footing as a lawyer in the private sector across a span of more than two decades, he previously ran the Victorian Multicultural Commission and was most recently the director of Multicultural Engagement at Swinburne University in Melbourne. He started his current position in October 2018, although the necessity of the role was questioned initially.
“Well, someone’s got to do it. We’re not here to criticize anyone but help to tackle some issues and make Melbourne a better place. If there are racial issues, we will want to deal with those responsible and call them out as they are,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t evade his responsibilities at the face of recent and challenging political pressures.
Chin Tan doesn’t treat this like a backyard problem – he knows the unique challenges that most migrants will face in a new country. Chin Tan migrated to Australia in the 1980’s and had to learn how to assimilate, start a family and persevere to build his law practice from scratch.
“Honestly, it was probably easier for me to adapt to Australia than others who found it difficult. That’s why we have different government roles provided by resources to support these communities,”
A lot of what we do is our fulfilment to international convention against discrimination of all sorts: racism, sexism, children exploitation. The great thing about Australia is that it has a democratic framework and people can openly talk about and find solutions for migration and racial issues – two major things that we are facing now,” he said.
Chin Tan, who lives in Melbourne with his wife and two children, is grateful for what he has and what he has achieved.
Chin Tan’s daughter who’s recently married is a doctor and his son is also a lawyer. He recalls the hard life of his father who sold charcoal to support his family of nine children and Chin Tan’s grandparents. “He passed away when I was seven. My brother had to take over the business when he was 20 and he only had education until primary three. We didn’t come from a wealthy background and I’m blessed for having many opportunities given to me and be where I am today,” he said.
by Karina Foo