Dr Rajaratnam (Raj) Sundarason (MBBS 1956) arrived in Australia from Singapore in February 1950 as a 21-year-old Colombo Plan student preparing to study medicine at the University of Melbourne.
3 JULY 1929 – 21 DECEMBER 2017
It was the era of the White Australia Policy with widespread anti-Asian sentiment evident in the community. Like many others, Raj experienced difficulty in obtaining suitable accommodation because of his ethnicity.
Along with two other students, Abinasti Jerath and Sam Dimmick (GDip (Social Studies) 1951, BA 1953, BCom 1954), he was instrumental in convincing the University of Melbourne to establish International House as a residence for Australian and overseas students. These individuals rank among the esteemed founders of International House. Their vision was for the house to be a place for nurturing friendship, cultural understanding and tolerance among young people from various nations, many of whom were expected to provide community leadership in their home societies. This ideal has been pursued since 1957.
Raj Sundarason was a lifelong supporter of International House. He completed his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degrees at Melbourne in 1956 and gained fellowships from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Scotland in 1964 and from the Royal College of Surgeons in England a year later.
He established a successful career as a plastic surgeon in Singapore where he practised until shortly before his death on 21 December 2017, aged 88. He was a founding member of the Singapore Association of Plastic Surgeons and the Singapore Society of Cosmetic (Aesthetic) Surgery.
He mentored future medical students through his engagement as a senior lecturer in general surgery at the Department of Surgery, University of Singapore.
Raj was the last surviving founder of International House. His association spanned more than 65 years. He was a member of the first planning committee in 1950 and the foundation Council from 1955 to 1961. He was vice-warden to Sam Dimmick from 1960 to 1963 while practising medicine in Melbourne. In this role he was instrumental in establishing the administrative framework for the House during its formative years.
He rejoined the Council in 1973 as an international member, serving for a further 20 years. His distinguished contribution has been recognised by International House through his election as an esteemed fellow, and through the endowment of the Sundarason scholarship to support a young student as a resident.
His portrait, by artist Robert Hannaford, is displayed in the Dimmick Dining Hall. His legacy is the leadership and passion he displayed to fulfil the International House dream of making the world a better place through fellowship. Raj is survived by his wife Mary, five children and seven grandchildren.
Professor Emeritus Frank Larkins AM
(BSc (Hons) 1962, BEd 1965, MSc 1966, DSc 1987, LLD 2009)
Past Chair, International House Council
The University of Melbourne