Whoever follows international news, will have come to know that migrants from Sri Lanka are less than welcome in Australia. It is understandable due to the fact that most illegal immigrants in Australia are Tamils claiming to be persecuted in Sri Lanka. A debate about discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka may be justified. But Tamils have not at all to fear for their lives in Sri Lanka. Those leaving the country for Australia clearly do it for expected economical advantages.
However, white Australians should not forget, that their ancestors were not welcomed by Aborigines, either, and that they arrived there as petty criminals. Remarkably, the first arrivals or persons from Sri Lanka took place in the very same wake of the British colonial practice to banish disturbing people to Australia. In 1816, a British soldier called O’Deen and his Sinhalese wife Eve and his daughter and two sons were deported from Ceylon to Australia on the SS Kangaroo. O’Dean was of Malayan ethnic origin. His crime was deserting to the Sinhalese troops of the Kandy King in 1803. He lived and married in Kandy. But when the Kandyan kingdom was captured in 1815, O’Deen was arrested for treason. He had good luck not to have been executed. The mixed Malayan-Sinhalese family from Ceylon lived at Australia’s northern coast, two more children were born there. In 1818, O'Dean managed to secure a job as a guardian at HM Dockyard. In 1827, he was appointed as a Malay interpreter. This is quite a remarable career and other members and descendents of this first Sri Lankans in Australia may have contributed to Australia’s development in a similar way as banished convicts from England.
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