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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Cultural Studies »

John Lack about the effect the War had on his father's attitudes to Asians

John Lack and Mara Moustafine.

Historian John Lack identifies the effect the War had on his father's attitudes to Asians and refugees



Date Added:

13 February 2009


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My father had been in – spent four and a half years in Malaya, Singapore and Thailand as a private in the army and then as a slave labourer and he’d seen all these different peoples and he came back with firmly – firm stereotypes of the Malay, of the Chinese of the Singaporean and so on. But he came back with these stereotypes but what he came back with was a profound admiration for the Chinese, who had done so much to help the Australians in Singapore and Malaya under terribly difficult circumstances.


You know, so my father had those notions, he was a child in Deakin’s Australia but he’d grown through them and although he still had strong stereotypes and even hatreds, you know, hatred of the Japanese, hatred of the Koreans he had encountered as a prisoner his racism broke down under the experience of people who were kindly or who were fellow victims. And we had a number of Chinese friends who would come in, my father was a fruiterer and he bought his produce at the Victoria Market and he made friends with a lot of Chinese. I don’t think he would have done this before the war, I think – but, you know, he was interested and we met them and my mother became interested in Chinese herbalism, it was a real flowering of the old suspicious working class culture sort of opened up, the war despite its horrors and terrors it opened up new possibilities it seemed to us.


And when I brought my friends home, you know, the Poles, the Russians and so on, the Hungarian, Dad would talk to them, you know, and find out about them and find out what sort of life they’d had and what sort of life their families had had. So, that was – that was happening to me and that old world – the world of Deakin’s world, that had held secure for almost half a century started to break up I think.


End transcript