Below is a fairly recent email reply to one of our readers of our book entitled “Migrating to Australia Good Meh???”.
On the morning of 17 June 2014, our reader wrote to tell us about his situation and seek some third party opinion about whether to migrate to Australia or not.


Our reader, let’s call him David Tao, runs a well-established and steadily growing music school in Malaysia. In his early 40s, he has plans to pursue his PhD in music with one of the leading universities in Australia. If granted a scholarship, his child who loves Australia will get to study in an Australian public school for two years for free.

He is reluctant to leave his family and career behind for the unknown. Of course the prospects of getting a PhD and a teaching position in an Australian university is equally appealing to him. Should he leave or should he stay? There is not an easy answer. My take? I left in 2004 and was single then.

Now that I have married and settled down here, uprooting everything to move again will not be as easy as I would have wished. There can never be a right or wrong answer as everyone’s situation and contexts are different. But it is always good to consider different points of view when making a decision as difficult as this one. Here is what I have written to David Tao.

On Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 1:49 PM, ken soong;> wrote:

Dear David Tao,

Thanks for your email. Not sure if I am of much help to you as I can only speak from my perspective.

In Australia, you might be able to meet some really good musicians here and this might stimulate you intellectually and professionally. But it will definitely take time (and quite a lot of it) to achieve the kind of success you are having now in Malaysia. This is because you need to start from a much lower point.

You might have the recognition from your peers in Australia, but your standing in the society will not be the same. And I am not even talking about the ‘glamorous’ side of things, I am just saying it might be a bit difficult to stand out from the rest of your competition in the eyes of your students. ‘A bit difficult’ might be an understatement, but I might be wrong too.

I believe you enjoy your music and you enjoy your current career which in my mind is quite impressive considering you are only in your early 40s. At this age with your current level of success, you can even scale greater heights if you really want to, in Malaysia and Asia (with Malaysia as your base). And if you want to scale greater heights by doing your PhD in Australia, you should NEVER give up everything in Malaysia.

But then again, it really depends on what you want in life. Both paths bring you two very different sets of experiences. If you are not so concerned about income and want to experience something different at this stage of your life, then going to Australia will surely offer you something different, something interesting, something challenging. But your lifestyle will be no where near as comfortable as what you are enjoying in Malaysia. By that I mean in Malaysia, one can focus more energy on doing something one is really good at and leave other jobs to the maid or other people to do. In Australia, one cannot afford to do that.

The political freedom might be lacking in Malaysia, but economic freedom to do what we like in Malaysia is more than in Australia. I have a friend who plays the piano for a living. He also has a music production business, writing music and producing jingles for the advertising and film-making industry in Australia. He admitted openly to me that if he stops playing he stops eating. Income from music writing is very ad hoc and unreliable. Piano playing (in social functions and piano bars) and music teaching are his bread and butter.

Since you have plans to do a PhD with an Australian university, you may well be considering also teaching music in university. If yes, you must be prepared to work sessionally first rather than as a full-time staff. Sessionally means casually where your work is given from one semester to another.

I am a sessional teacher, tutor, and teaching associate in three places. To make ends meet and they hardly meet. This is the trend in the years to come. My colleague from the USA used to teach accounting sessionally at MIT, before he moved to Melbourne. I also have colleagues teaching sessionally despite the fact that they have PhDs from leading universities. PhDs are in excess supply here. They are definitely not as valued or ‘looked up’ to here in Australia.

Sessionals who were able to later become permanent full-time staff do exist but in small numbers. From what I have seen they are mostly Caucasians. Anti-discrimination laws co-exist with glass-ceilings here side by side – in harmony. Some are even bullet-proof.

Please do not let my opinions stop you from coming to Australia, but I have to be honestly sharing my piece of mind as someone who has been here ten years. There are also people who have lived here longer than I have and have very different views from mine about Australia.

When our book had some publicity last year, two KL-based migration agents approached us. One said they wanted to work with us to promote the idea of migrating to Australia to more Malaysians. Politely but firmly, we declined their proposals to work together because such arrangement will greatly contradict our very original intention of writing our book. Obviously they have not read our book. We do not want to encourage or discourage readers to migrate here. Only seek to keep them better informed. Each individual’s situation and context is different.

I have recently added an email subscription gadget on my blog. An old dog learning a not-so-new trick! Haha…

Go to the right side of the screen, select the second icon (RSS Feed), fill in your email address and you will get regular updates on our latest posts about the latest news and developments about all things Australia. We also write things about parenthood, personal financial, children’s growth, well-being and education, the general economic outlook, mindset development and life in general.

Thanks and best regards,


PS: We are now in the process completing two more books for our publisher Gerak Budaya to publish by end of this year. The two books are Making It in Australia: Success stories from different walks of life and Twenty Top-paying jobs per hour in Australia.

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