Don on a mis­sion

The Star Malaysia - - Front Page - twomey@monash.edu.

Prof Christina Twomey is search­ing for Malaysians who knew Aus­tralian ser­vice per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies who lived and served in Malaysia be­tween 1945 and 1988.

GE­ORGE TOWN: They lived among Penangites and in sub­tle ways, some of their cul­ture rubbed off on the lo­cals.

The Aus­tralian pres­ence in Pe­nang spanned decades. When the Royal Aus­tralian Air Force (RAAF) had a base in But­ter­worth, they had their own ra­dio sta­tion, which lo­cals could tune in to.

Ra­dio RAAF But­ter­worth was just one of the many things that Aus­tralians had here which helped shape Pe­nang’s so­ci­ety, and a his­to­rian wants to un­cover the depth of that in­flu­ence.

Prof Christina Twomey is search­ing for Malaysians who knew Aus­tralian ser­vice per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies who lived and served in Malaysia be­tween 1945 and 1988.

She is study­ing the so­cial im­pact of the 100,000-odd Aus­tralians’ time in Pe­nang, Me­laka, Sin­ga­pore, Ja­pan and Hong Kong.

She said most of the air force per­son­nel lived in Pe­nang while army per­son­nel were in Me­laka.

Twomey said their lives re­mains a his­tor­i­cal mys­tery to most.

“I con­ducted a sur­vey with for­mer Aus­tralian mil­i­tary per­son­nel who de­scribed their me­mories.

“Now I wish to lo­cate Malaysians who came into con­tact with them, to as­sist me in the study,” she said.

She is a his­tory pro­fes­sor and head of the School of Philo­soph­i­cal, His­tor­i­cal and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies at Monash Univer­sity.

Her re­search is en­ti­tled “Aus­tralia’s Asian gar­risons and re­gional en­gage­ment: Over­seas mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ties and re­gional en­gage­ment, 1945-1988.”

She said she would like to get the Malaysian per­spec­tive on how Aus­tralians may have im­pacted their lives.

“I’m look­ing for any­one who worked for the mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ties, such as amahs or civil­ians who did busi­ness with them, peo­ple who worked at the RAAF base or school, or who got to know the Aus­tralians at so­cial clubs or en­gaged in vol­un­tary work,” she said.

Twomey said the project will ex­pand and rein­ter­pret the his­tory of Aus­tralia’s en­gage­ment with Asia.

“I can­not wait to meet these Malaysians and get their side of the story,” she said ex­cit­edly.

She re­mem­bers stay­ing in Pe­nang’s Vale of Tempe, called Lem­bah Per­mai to­day, when she was 11, while her dad served with the RAAF in But­ter­worth from 1979 to 1981.

“A Chi­nese amah, whom I only knew as Sai, used to work for us, and I would be happy if I can get in touch with her again,” she said, adding that she would come back to Pe­nang next month.

Those who can help Twomey can e-mail her at christina.

Those were the days: Twomey show­ing a pho­to­graph of her fam­ily with Sai.

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