Migraton heritage - Banu Rangganadhan

Interviewee: Banu Rangganadhan, born 1954

Interviewer: Noelene Pullen

Date of Interview: 6 March 2009

Transcription: Kevin Murray, March 2009

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee


I was born in Malaysia in 1954. I grew up in a little Muslim village... I was brought up by my grandparents in that village until I was a teenager. Life at that time in those days was very lovely. As I said my grandparents brought me up and we lived with many different cultural groups - Chinese, Indians, Malays. Different religions, lots of Muslims. I'm a Hindu by birth but there were other religious communities there and all of us lived very happily together, spending time together, celebrating each other's festivals, and just enjoying each other's company and their different traditions.

When I was young I went to a school that was mixed - it was a Malay and English mixed school. Then when I was older, when I became a teenager in High School I went to a Convent School, where I learnt about Christianity, went to the Church, learnt about the Christian faith. So I got to learn a lot about different religions through my growing up years in Malaysia.

I left to come to Australia in 1977 because I'd had an arranged marriage and my husband had been studying in Australia and then he decided to work here. So then he came back to have an arranged marriage at that time and so I decided I'd marry this man and come to Australia.

Banu's arranged engagement in Malaysia 1976

The arranged marriage that I'd had - well my parents were quite liberal and so I had a choice in whether I wanted to marry this person that my parents had chosen... a lot of other times in some other families it may not be so but in my family they gave me a choice. And so I thought I'd say yes, and so I said yes to this marriage. But arranged marriages are not like see the person and get married, it's a lot of preparation as well. Usually the family looks at the horoscope of the boy and the girl. There's about 9 points in this horoscope, and I think more than 5 have to match before they go ahead with the next step of suiting this bride and groom. And also they look at the background of the boy, the background of the family, so they make sure that everything fits in - the background of their education and everything before they actually make a match and go ahead with marriages.

When I first came to Australia I settled in Glebe. I lived in Glebe in an extended family - with my relatives. And then we moved on to Stanmore and then to The Hills area.

Life at that time, when I first arrived in Australia was the hardest time in my life. I was living in this extended family situation and getting to know the family. They were a wonderful family but it's just that I didn't know them and it was a process of getting to know each other. And I didn't know the country. I thought I was Westernised, I thought I spoke good English, I dressed in Western clothes and I thought that would get me through, but not so. There was the Australian accent that I didn't understand. There was the Australian slang. There was the System of Australia which I didn't understand. And I had no friends, so it was very isolated, it was very lonely and it took a while to get to know everything. So it wasn't a good time in my life. But it's fine now.

We moved to The Hills Shire in 1981. We had just had my first, eldest child and we thought that the area we were living in in Stanmore was a little bit of an older suburb, for older people, so we thought The Hills area seemed like a family-oriented good place to bring up children, and we had a few friends here, so we decided to move to The Hills area.

The family traditions that I still practice... I still use our traditional costumes - the Sari and all the different things. My children do too - we still visit the Hindu temples, we celebrate festivals like Diwali which is a festival of lights... we invite friends, we make sweets, we distribute sweets to neighbours. We celebrate it with lights and... we also celebrate other festivals and traditions too.

The community groups and things that I have been involved in are like Women's Groups, Playgroups, other Church-orientated activities like the Playgroup activities and things like that.

The Harmony Day Committee 2007, part of The Hills Multicultural Network

I've been very happy living in The Hills Shire because this is where I really feel that I made my friends, got to know the area. In fact when I was with a group here we made a quilt that was to depict East meeting West and our migration to Australia. And I actually did a quilt that showed my journey in Australia. You know when I first came I was a shy person, very closed up and then I just started to bloom, getting to know the system, getting to know friends and then eventually now it's who I am... very sure of myself and happy here in The Hills area.

What I do now, my job here is a Multicultural project worker, working in The Hills Shire. I work with migrants and refugees. Having been through the process myself of settling in a new country, I feel that I can do a good job of this so I work on different projects that assist migrants and refugees to settle into the area. Some of the projects are like The Hills Cultural Festival, the Chinese video project, which is the story about traditional Chinese stories made into video, with some of the areas in the Shire depicted in the video. I also work on a project called The Hills Interfaith Dialogue Group who promote harmony by promoting understanding of different religions. And English classes... a whole range of different things for the migrants settling in.