Introducing Rajaman’s Guide to Australia

By the Migrant Education Centre, Victoria

Available from

Cost $US4.50
Rajaman’s Guide to Australia is a practical information book released by Migrant Education Centre, Victoria.

What it is, is an ‘Idiot’s Guide to Australia’ written by GK Samarakoon an Australian writer, teacher and traveller.

The book is written by the perspective of a migrant, hence it explains things in simple language with a bit of humour.

The book covers everything from maps, how to find lodging, food, transport, part-time jobs, immigration and visas etc.

There were a few things which I learned from the book as well.

And things like the weekly tickets are taken for granted by Australians in the country but these things could be a novelty to new migrants.

So in that sense this book is a must-have for anyone coming in to the country to study or live.

— Susan Bingley, Migrant Counsellor.  

Getting ‘a grasp’ of Australian society:

A recent survey conducted by the Migration Resource Centre in Melbourne, found that 80% of migrants from South Asian countries take at least four years to get a full grasp of the Australian society and ‘get a feel for the new country’.

This was in contrast to immigrants coming from Eastern Europe, who although lacking proficiency in English were quick to integrate into the society, rather than the English-speaking migrants from Commonwealth countries such as Sri Lanka and India.

The main reasons cited for this prolongment in adjustment into the new society were non-verbal and directly related to the differences in day-to-day life patterns.

“We find it amazing that South Asians coming to Australia for the first time have a clear  understanding of the ‘bigger issues’ like what’s happening in politics, visa matters, registrations on the net, but it’s the little day-to-day things that they take a while to grasp,” said Susan Bingley, Migrant Counsellor and conductor of the in-house survey.

“Obviously we come across different groups from different countries needing all sorts of assistance and it has become apparent that migrants from certain countries have the same kind of needs that have to be met.

“Similarly, migrants from South Asian countries need assistance with similar type of challenges, leading to a common set of questions.
“Some of the common questions we get asked by newly arrived Sri Lankans and Indians are about reading street directories, where to do budget shopping, understanding bus timetables, about rentals, bus tickets, student jobs etc.

“These are daily matters that we take for granted but are important to them.”

And referring to the ‘Rajaman’s Guide to Australia’, Ms Bingley said: “A booklet like this will go far in the way of giving insight into the society.

“It explains in simple terms what we take for granted and is from a migrant’s perspective in local inferences.”

Ms Bingley added that there are also Migrant Resource Centres all over Australia — for assistance contact Northern Migrant Resource Centre.

Challenges faced by Sri Lankan job-seekers in Australia

Recruitment consultant Anthony Fernando, a Sri Lankan expatriate who is the manager of Recruitment Link job agency) in Dandenong, has assisted many Sri Lankan migrants and students over the last 20 years to get jobs, and he says the biggest challenge for them is not being able to understand the work-culture.

“The most common thing I see is that they have not left room for the cultural differences between Sri Lanka and Australia,” he said.

“After 20 years in this business I frequently see people struggling with job situations because they don’t grasp the job system.

“For example, the job system here is such that everyone, at some point, has done casual jobs to earn their living, and there’s no shame in it.

“People from all professions end up doing casual work in factories to earn money when in transition but Sri Lankans (South Asians as a whole) think it’s an embarrassment and only seek professional jobs without considering casual jobs.

“And the same people come back to me after a couple of months, desperate for any kind of job because they are running out of funds.

“Now a booklet like ‘Rajaman’s Guide to Australia’ comes at an ideal time, in that it’s a light reader, based on personal experiences, and tries to convey the social differences between the two societies with a bit of humour.

“It covers things that cannot be found in generic travelogues.”

Dandenong is the suburb with the most number of Sri Lankans living in Australia.

Sri Lankan students in Australia:

The Higher Education Strategic Analysis and Evaluation Group (ESAEG) in South Australia came to the same conclusion after a survey carried out on international students who enter Australia for tertiary education, citing their studying  paradigm was affected by the lack of understanding and preparation for the new environment. 

Australia is the third most popular study destination, with 237, 236 international students studying at Australian Institutions at April 2004.

And Sri Lanka is a major source country from which annually thousands of students migrate to Australia for studies.

With such huge numbers entering the country, the survey concluded that not enough was done to educate students on day-to-day life matters to assist students who have enough pressure grappling with a new learning-system (courtesy of Global Education Policy Site).

Links with Australia:
The majority of the 53,610 Lanka-born persons in Australia live in Victoria (26,670) and 16,910 in New South Wales.

In 2002 Sri Lanka imported Australian goods worth of $A300 million, whiles its exports to Australia only totalled $A87 million.

Over 2000 Sri Lankan students travelled to Australia for studies in 2002 (it is expected to have tripled by now).

Investments in Sri Lanka was $A600 million in July 2002, according to Global Education.