|Country of Origin||Malaysia|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1950|
|Submitted by||Victor Rebikoff|
The Rebikoff family, comprising my mother, Helen and myself migrated to Australia from Singapore in the early part of 1950 so that I could attend an English speaking school in Perth. Having been born near the end of WW2 in Kuala Pilah in Malaya (now Malaysia), to Russian born parents, and with my mother only being able to speak a smattering of English (with myself limited to speaking some Malay and Russian), life was very difficult during these couple of years, with my father Vladimir staying in Singapore, to complete the move to Perth. By October of 1953, tragedy struck with the sudden death of my father in Singapore, and with no money available, and with me being so young, my mother was unable to even attend the funeral. We later found out that the lawyer handling the estate allegedly embezzled what money was left.
As we were both living in a two bedroom house at the time, my mother decided to rent the other room in order to get money for food, and on those occasions that the person did not pay the rent-having taken advantage of my mother’s lack of English etc, she was forced to take in ironing and washing. At the same time, as I was approaching school age, my mother was determined for me to attend the local school and succeeded with the help of other migrant families to have the school fees waived until I was old enough to earn money after school and on weekends. After these hardships I grew up with a steel determination to ensure that my mother was never taken advantage of again. Despite my early difficulties at school with the English language, I eventually completed my high school ‘matriculation’ with a grade of 51% for English (a compulsory subject) and a prerequisite to entering University.
In December 1965, I left Perth and joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra, and in the two year period that followed, met my future wife, paid a deposit on my first home and went on my first overseas posting to Timor (then called Portuguese Timor).
Between the period from 1966-76, I served my country in Papua New Guinea, Portugal and Timor again-having returned to Timor a second time in 1975 following the coup to arrange the evacuation of Australians and other nationals from the civil war stricken country.
During the period from 1977-88, when I worked for the Department of Defence as its first Equal Employment Coordinator (which included ensuring equal opportunities for migrants in the workplace), I decided that I wanted to do more to help migrants in the Canberra community to overcome some of the difficulties and disadvantages that my mother and I had experienced and so joined the local Ethnic Communities Council of the ACT in 1979-the start of my involvement with the multicultural communities.
Besides lobbying successfully for more money for the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), English as a Second Language (ESL) and the introduction of Multicultural Television (SBS) to Canberra, I also initiated the first ‘Multicultural Festival’ in January 1980- a one day event to promote better understanding of Canberra’s cultural diversity, which continued until 1996 when the Festival was transformed into the National Multicultural Festival under the auspices of the ACT Office of Multicultural Affairs.
In January 1989, I was honoured to have received the Order of Australia Medal from the Australian Government for my ‘services to migrants’. And in 1998, I received a ‘Diploma of Appreciation’ from the Polish Strezlecki Institute for my services to multiculturalism
After serving as President of the Council for a period of 10 years (1983-92) I was then elected Chair of Australia’s peak multicultural organisation, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA). During my period as FECCA Chair, from 1992-96, I ensured that ‘Access and Equity’ became a viable policy within the Federal Government’s multicultural affairs portfolio, contributed to the expansion of multicultural radio services across Australia, brought together for the first time all the nationwide multicultural organisations to address racism and support the proposed Racial Vilification legislation, as well as established the national headquarters of FECCA in Canberra (in October 2004)
From late 1988 until August 2007, I was pleased to work for the ACT Government in a number of senior multicultural roles (which besides having a few months break included a three year period split between the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office and a major law firm, Snedden, Hall and Gallop).