Moving Truths: Kimberley Lee

The Moving Truths series showcases pieces of writing by Faculty of Arts students on the topic of Global Migration.

In 2019, the Faculty of Arts ran a writing competition related to ‘Hard Truths’, an exhibition of prize-winning photography from The New York Times. Students wrote creative and journalistic pieces responding to the following questions: 'What has your life experience and the experience of those around you taught you about global migration? What needs to change?' Moving Truths, a new online series, showcases student entries from the competition, alongside profiles of each student author. Explore Moving Truths to learn more about our global community and discover the powerful stories our students have to tell.

Graduate Diploma student Kimberley Lee wrote about her parents' experiences migrating from Cambodia and Hong Kong, and explored the complex dynamics of how each of them identifies and is identified by others. Learn a bit more about Kimberley below, and scroll down to read her piece.

Five Quick Questions with Kimberley

Author Kimberley Lee

Where would you like to travel? "To some of the provinces in China. China is a large country and is immensely multicultural. I would love to see parts of China we never get to hear about and more importantly I want to expand the social imagination of the country."

Of the places you've lived, which is your favourite? "Melbourne. There are so many varieties of thing to do and eat! The city has a great appreciation for local arts and cosmopolitan culture. I love eating Ethiopian food in Footscray, going to small galleries in Fitzroy, finding local cafes in every suburb."

Who or what inspires you? "People inspire me. I learn so much from social interactions and my creativity is a mesh of what I have observed from people around me, especially my neighbours and friends from abroad."

What are you studying or working on right now? "I am completing a Graduate Diploma of Arts with majors in politics and international studies; and I hope to continue on with the Master of Public Policy and Management."

How are you coping during the COVID-19 lockdown? "I think I am doing okay, I am very lucky to be living with my family and have my sisters to chat with everyday. I find that I am enjoying my studies a lot more now that I am free from many commitments such as my job which has ceased."

Thanks Kimberley!

"Immigrant Parents" by Kimberley Lee

To me, global migration has never been a foreign idea; it is a common theme among my circle of friends and permeates throughout my family history.

My mum, a refugee who survived the Khmer Rouge, was born and raised in Cambodia, speaks at least four languages, and doesn’t identify herself as a pure Cambodian. Her Grandfather migrated from China and her Grandmother was originally from Laos. She was a second-generation Cambodian but she calls herself Teochew.

Teochew people, they are the diaspora Chinese who migrated to Southeast Asia. Taking risks and working hard in a foreign country with no one to lean on are the virtues of being Teochew.

My dad migrated from Hong Kong and speaks barely two languages, he is fluent in Cantonese and speaks broken English. He is ethnically Chinese but he does not identify as Chinese; civically, he is a Hong Konger.

He will never admit to being Chinese because western democracy vigorously permeated the culture of Hong Kong at the time my father’s mind was still malleable and impressionable. My dad is a product of colonialism and even now in his 60s, he still admires the hopes and dreams sold to him by Western ideologies. These were the reasons he left Hong Kong: he wanted to preserve those comforting beliefs during the time Hong Kong was to be given back to Chinese sovereignty.

The mention of China still leaves a bad taste in his mouth and the current political turmoil between China and Hong Kong has only reinforced this colonial identity. Even having lived in Australia for more than 30 years, he still identifies as a Hong Konger and shows admiration for the West. My mum, on the other hand, embraces her Chinese ethnicity proudly.

Whilst both my parents’ stories are different - my mum being a refugee and my dad a political immigrant - they both share the same identity of being an immigrant and both love Australia more than anyone I know. Although neither parent identified with the hegemonic group in their birth countries, they did not face the same intensity of discrimination based on their migration status.

However it does not matter how devoted they are as Australian citizens, they are still immigrants. They have merely come from one hardship to be met with another kind.

There seems to be this idea that immigrants are impure to Australian-born citizens, as if their contributions and merits will never be accounted for the same way as Australian-born. The social fabric of Australia is tenuous because we have a lack of understanding of the Other and had made it the perfect climate for prejudice.

But there are trillion of stories all immigrants hold together and these are stories that need to be told in the wider Australian landscape. It is the exchange of stories which expand our moral imagination and teaches us how we treat people. These are the arts and literature which should be in part embedded in our culture.