Migrant story for Wangaratta

Alice Pung
Alice Pung

ASIAN-Australian author Alice Pung will swap her Melbourne surrounds for Wangaratta today when she takes on the role of Australia Day ambassador to the city.

“I think it’s nice going to country towns,” said Pung, whose Chinese-Cambodian mother was eight months’ pregnant with her when she arrived in Australia.

“People are so kind and friendly to you and even if they predominantly support One Nation when people see an Asian person they’re generally not racist against you specifically.

“I’ve been there two or three times, I just love it.”

Pung was invited to take the role following her inclusion on a multicultural panel on what it means to be Australian.

Her suggestion for a change to the day, though, is to have one that celebrates our indigenous people.

“The Eureka flag seems very invasive because that’s exactly what the colonists did when they came here, to stick a flag in the country,” Pung said.

Pung is one of the authors of 27 short memoirs in a new book, Joyful Strains: Making Australia Home, with profits going to support PEN: Promoting Literature, Defending Freedom of Expression.

In her piece, Stealing from Little Saigon, Pung writes about the Footscray markets where for years her father has had an electronics store.

“I grew up in Footscray and it didn’t seem so exotic to me,” she said.

“Then when I went to university I realised Footscray was seen as a bit of a ghetto and it was almost impene- trable.

“Most of the migrants there who owned shops didn’t speak much English.”

She says the book gives a different perspective on what it means to be Australian.

“We had a decade of multiculturalism. I was very lucky to grow up in that decade. But then we had another decade of assimilation,” Pung said.