Chapter 4

A Special People-to-People Connection

Photo of Dame Pattie Menzies greeting a schoolgirl

Dame Pattie Menzies greeting a schoolgirl, Rohanan bte Mah Fotz, during a visit to Selangor to see a new water supply provided by the Australian Government under the Colombo Plan, 8 December 1959.

As we have seen, Australia–Malaysia contact criss-crosses many avenues of mutual interest—defence and security partnerships, trade and investment relationships and education—but very special connections have also been made through tourism, migration, the arts and sport. These connections are equally long-standing and remain durable through a constant organic flow stimulated by curiosity, creativity and collaboration. In Australia, the number of Malaysian migrants has gradually increased over 60 years, while the Australian expat community in Malaysia is a well established part of society. As early as 1950, Australians joined up with New Zealanders to form the Malaysian, Australian and New Zealand Association (MANZA), which remains active today, with its own MANZA House in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Bangsar.1 As expat communities from both countries have laid enduring foundations, so too has mutual curiosity been fulfilled through tourism and explorations of the arts.

Artistic ties date back to the 1940s and 1950s, and from its very beginnings, the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur recognised the value of culture as a means of building friendship and mutual understanding. Australians have always been comfortable at the heart of artistic and cultural life in Malaysia. Equally, sport has been a conduit to friendship. Whether this has taken place over a game of golf between diplomats or businessmen, or through an emerging network of young athletes, sport now takes its place among the ever-expanding complex of Australia–Malaysia relations. Cycling, swimming, surf lifesaving, badminton, field hockey and netball all feature in our shared passion for sport. Malaysia also has connections with some of Australia's most iconic sporting events, notably the Melbourne Cup and Australian Rules football.