This is Van. He’s an African Malaysian Indian & Scandinavian blend who hails from Mauritius. In 2000, he had to decide between uni in France or Australia and chose Melbourne cos his gf at the time said it was a kewl town.
An African man in Y2K Melbourne was like hens teeth. Sah, you were a ladies man?
I worked security at nights and studied during the day. There were many places to meet people and I had a big afro at the time so all the kewl clubs wanted me to work their doors. I definitely took advantage of being exotic.. lets just say I only ever went home to change my clothes.
Did people get racist on you?
I was a bouncer telling drunk bogans they couldn’t get into their club, so of course. But racism wasn’t new to me, Mauritius is multi-cultural so I had already learnt to live with that.
Did that help for a career as a jouvie officer?
Nah the fact that I came from an underprivileged background is what made me a good at my job. I grew up on a small island and didn’t have a lot of things, so the kids and I could relate in that way. It allowed me to build rapport with them. They listen to me, let me be supportive and suggest better pathways to live a better life. My job is very satisfying.
How did you get to live in Aboriginal communities?
I’d been travelling Australia and made some friends in Arnhem land and Maningrida, who invited me to live with them for awhile. I learnt to camp, fish, cook and live the way they do. Their connection to the land is a privilege to see. From roasting a barramundi to cleaning a turtle, to hearing their cultural stories. It’s all about nature, being grateful to the land and respectful of community.
So from small island to big – which is your home?
Definitely Australia. I’ve been here since I was 19 so have spent my entire adult life here. My partner and I just had a baby girl so the anchor is down to stay. Home is where your family is and ours is here. Also, there aren’t as many opportunities in Mauritius – so it is a holiday destination now.
What are some kewl things about your first island home?
– I used to watch Neighbours, it was dubbed in French
– there are barely any footpaths on the island
– we have 1.5 million people, on one patch of land that is the same distance as Melb to Geelong (and only 45km wide)
– before their extinction, it was the last place on earth that dodos existed