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In Foreigners' Eyes : Our lasting connections

【明報專訊】My father was born in Hong Kong in 1948. He grew up in a family of eight children on Portland Street in Mongkok and talks of his childhood as a time of mischief and excitement. At the age of 20, he decided to see the world and bought himself a ticket on a cargo ship bound for Australia.

My father was there initially to study but quickly fell in love with the Australian culture and decided to stay, a familiar story shared by so many Hong Kong Australians. The friendships he developed, BBQ's, Aussie rules football, the pie floater (a beef pastry served "floating" in pea soup) and his much loved car (the Datsun SSS) were all too hard to leave.

The Hong Kong community in Australia during the 60's and 70's was relatively small but supportive of each other. Newly arrived Hong Kong migrants embraced a broad range of experiences and my father was no different, picking up jobs as a farm hand, furniture maker and bus conductor.

While growing up in Australia, I was always reminded of our Hong Kong heritage. My father would bring me back to Hong Kong many times as a child, to soak in the atmosphere of the harbour and the streets. He made sure I was just as good at backyard cricket as I was at mah-jong.

Today, I have the privilege of representing my country as an Australian diplomat, posted to the same city where my father grew up. I also had the privilege recently of watching my father walk my two little boys through the narrow streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, where he too once roamed as a small boy.

I see the Australian-Hong Kong relationship as being enriched by personal stories like that of my father and ultimately, it is the people-to-people links that forge Australia's close friendship with Hong Kong. Over more than a century, Hongkongers have played an important role in Australia's rich multicultural history. There are a multitude of such stories, some dating back 200 years, of Cantonese speakers making their way to Australia during the gold rush of the 1800's, or during other important times in Australia's development.

We should not forget as well the thousands of Australians who came to Hong Kong for a "short stay", only to grow fond of the city and eventually make it their home.

Australians' love for Hong Kong has not only been driven by literature and pop culture, but by Hongkongers themselves who have been wonderful ambassadors in Australia. Over the years, I've spent countless hours watching my father showcase the bright lights of Hong Kong to his Australian mates through his grainy home videos.

I think Hong Kong appeals to Australians for the same reason that Australia appeals to Hong Kongers. We are both different in culture and physical layout, which offers something interesting and unique to the other side. But equally there are commonalities that both sides share, like a sense of adventure, a respect for the rule of law and a willingness to speak up for fairness and decency.

■By Gavin Ku, Consul, Australian Consulate-General Hong Kong

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