Monash mayor keeps it dinky di, with Sri Lankan twist

THE only time Micaela Drieberg explains her Sri Lankan background is when someone asks about her name or her complexion. Otherwise, she just keeps it simple.

"I'm Sri Lankan — that's what I say," she says. "I don't really break it down to what ethnicity it is because it doesn't really seem to matter here."

Councillor Drieberg is part of the Burgher ethnic group, which refers to the Eurasian descendants of Portuguese, Dutch and German people who settled in Sri Lanka in the 1800s.

"Most of them migrated out of Sri Lanka in the 1950s and '60s, mainly because the official language changed to Singhalese," she says.

There are three ethnic groups in Sri Lanka: Burgher, Tamil and Singhalese.

As part of the 65th Sri Lankan independence day celebrations last Monday, Cr Drieberg spoke at an event hosted by the Sri Lankan honorary consul. She told the gathering about what it was like to be a Burgher in Victoria.

As the mayor of Monash, Cr Drieberg is a confident public speaker. But the event last week had her nervous.

"When it's these sorts of cultural things, it's just got an added layer of emotion to it because you can't help but think . . . about what sort of life you would have had if your parents hadn't made a decision to move to another country."

The event featured representatives of Sri Lankan expatriates, from the different ethnic communities, speaking about their experiences in Australia.

"Most people see themselves as Australian first but are certainly proud of their Sri Lankan heritage," she says.

Although the Sri Lankan civil war heightened tensions between the Singhalese and Tamils, Ms Drieberg says their differences in Australia are less pronounced.

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