Our Multicultural Choir
Australia has always been multicultural. In 1788, when the First Fleet arrived from Britain, our country was inhabited by at least 250 indigenous tribes, each of them with their own culture and language.
Australian Government policy towards indigenous people and other non-white races has not always been humane. Until 1969, Aboriginal children were customarily removed from their families to be educated and assimilated into white man’s culture. These people became known as “the stolen generations”. In 2010, following a public enquiry, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an official “Apology to the Stolen Generations” on behalf of all Australian people. Immigration to Australia by non-Europeans was restricted under a series of acts known as the “white Australia policy”, the remnants of which were finally dismantled in 1973.
For the last 4 decades, Australia has maintained large scale multi-ethnic immigration. Foreign Minister, Bob Carr explains that there is no need for Australians “to fetishize multiculturalism or to give it a capital ‘M’, but simply to relax into our easygoing Australian ethnic and cultural diversity based on tolerance and respect”. The membership of the AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER CHOIR reflects this:
Hannah Spracklan-Holl (alto) joined the choir in 2013: “My father was born in Scotland and my mum is third generation Australian. Mum’s great grandfather came from Denmark and the name was originally spelled Hølle. We have a photo of my great grandfather’s family, taken at their home in Queensland, and we think that my great grandmother was probably indigenous. We haven’t really done enough research to be certain”.
Tom Kristof (tenor) was born in Melbourne. “My mum is Australian and my dad arrived in Australia as an 8 year old refugee from Hungary. My grandfather, Bela Kristof was the Mayor of Budapest’s satelite town of Vac. In 1956 Soviet soldiers visited his home to warn him of the consequences of non-co-operation with the new Soviet Socialist regime. The soldiers shot some holes in mygrandfather’s reflection in a mirror to demonstrate their intentions. My grandmother and my father, who were hiding in a cupboard imagined that my grandfather had been killed. With the help of the Red Cross, my grandfather fled with his wife and son under cover of darkness across the border to Czechoslovakia. On arrival in Australia, Bela Kristof, who was a Dr of Laws worked in a rubber factory to support his family”.
Erika Tandiono, soprano was born in Surabaya, Indonesia to Chinese parents: “When I was 9 years old in 1998, native Indonesians rioted, burning the homes and businesses of wealthier ethnic Chinese residents. The riots were triggered by economic problems, food shortages and mass unemployment, all of which eventually led to the resignation of President Suharto and the fall of the New Order government. Fearing further racial violence, my parents decided that it would be better for my sisters and me to be educated in Melbourne. Following my sisters’ arrival in 2003, I arrived here in 2006 and attended Taylor’s College and then the University of Melbourne. Mum and Dad hope to settle in Melbourne in the future”.
Grace Cordell was born in Melbourne. “My mum is from Malaysia and my dad, who is second generation Australian is a descendant of English immigrants. Mum came to Melbourne from Kuala Lumpur to study Accounting when she was eighteen years old and settled in quickly. By the time she finished her degree, she had decided that she wanted to stay in Australia. We go back to Malaysia every couple of years to stay in touch with my mum’s family”.
Elizabeth Anderson (alto, harpsichordist) was born in London: “My parents met there at art school. My mum is from a Jewish background and my dad was born in Liverpool. My parents were pretty poor living in London on my dad’s salary as a high school teacher. My parents decided to emigrate to Australia as “ten pound Poms” in 1961, as it was the only way they would ever be able to afford to visit a foreign country. We arrived in Australia on the Fairsky. I don’t remember the 6-week trip, as I was only two years old. When we arrived in Launceston, Tasmania, the people were really friendly and welcoming and my parents soon decided to stay”.
Jerzy Kozlowski (bass, pictured, centre): “I was born in 1952 in England of a German/Polish mother and Polish father. At the beginning of World War II my father was in a Russian labour camp in Archangelsk. He escaped to Palestine and joined the Polish Free Army which fought its way through Italy and was eventually demobbed in England. My mother escaped from what was to become East Germany to England, meeting my father in Salisbury, Wiltshire. My parents had booked a sea passage to emigrate to Australia soon after I was born, but my father broke his leg two weeks before we were due to sail and the opportunity was missed! I finally made Australia my home in 1979″.
Rhys Boak (bass, organist, pictured above right): “My mother’s family imigrated to Australia from Lincolnshire in 1853 as part of the gold rush that had begun in the young colony of Victoria. My father imigrated with his family from Almondsbury, England as “ten pound Poms” in 1963 in order to escape financial hardship”.
Douglas Lawrence (director): “At the time of my birth, my family had lived in Australia for four generations. My Great great grandfather, William Effingham Lawrence arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1823 on his ship, the Lord Liverpool. His son, Robert William Lawrence was Tasmania’s first Botanist. By arrangement with the British Government, the family was granted land at Formosa on Lake River in Northern Tasmania, where members of my family still live. My grandchildren are 7th generation Australians, which puts them in the minority in this country”.
Jacob Lawrence (tenor, pictured below): “My mum and dad are Douglas and Liz, so my story’s much the same as theirs! I went to my first choir practice when I was one week old. In those days it was the Choir of Ormond College. My dad held me up in front of the choir and evidently I wriggled and screwed up my face. But the taste for choral music caught on! I started singing in the Scots Church choir with my parents when I was 6 years old and that’s how I learned to read music. I joined the ACC in 2010 when I was 17 and for three years I was the youngest member.