Nalliah Suriyakumara, better known as Suriyan, is a retired Tax Office employee who spends his time helping people. As current President of the Darebin Ethnic Communities Council (DECC), Suriyan contributes to a range of projects, most prominent of which is the Darebin Asylum Seeker Support Program (DASSP).
A tall man with glasses, often seen wearing a colourful scarf and a quick smile, Suriyan loves to have a chat. As he carries out his work he will typically share a story or two about his experiences as a Tamil in Sri Lanka, as a coloured man in England or Australia, and link it all to political theory and social issues, past or present. While his digressions can sometimes seem long, they always return to the central theme and never fail to be interesting.
Black Socialist, White London
“When I started watching the movie with white guys, I realised – they’re laughing at me! When they’re shooting the Native Americans, suddenly I realised I am them!”
Let me tell you
“I shouted at my daughter – and of course that gave me an opportunity to explain: ‘These are sacred items for Hindus and you can’t put it on the floor.’ ”
Let the truth be told
“They told me I have to change many parts. Because many, many parts have contradiction with Islam rules and something like that. I didn’t accept that. I said, ‘I translate the book from English to Persian and nothing else.'”
“I just escaped. I didn’t have time to apply for student visa. I could come as a student to Australia if I wanted. But I didn’t want it. I wanted to stay and try to build a better country [in Iran] but I couldn’t.”
The melancholic carpenter
“I had the baddest and the crazy life ever. No one can see it.”
Trouble and Desire
“It’s a love story. This story is very wonderful story because this girl, she’s always dreaming about the boy.”