To begin, I believe I should provide some obligatory comments on being Asian. Firstly, my heritage – I am Korean. For those wondering, from the South. My wife is Hong Kong Chinese. So I tell our kids they are 50% Korean and 50% Chinese, to which they respond, “no we are 100% Australian”. A different perspective on what it means to be Asian-Australian than I had, growing up in the exhaust fumes of the White Australia Policy.
In the Australia of 2019, serious questions linger. Can we seriously claim to be the most successful multicultural society in the world, as our leaders frequently like to boast? What does it say when our the leadership of our institutions do not bear the imprint of our multiculturalism? What does this say about the prospects that Australian citizens of Asian and other non-European backgrounds enjoy within our society? And what does this say about Australia and our cherished ideals of the fair go and egalitarianism?
I cannot impress on you how proud I am to have been asked to give the keynote address here tonight. I am standing in front of a room that to my mind represents a large part of the future of Australia. A room of Asian-Australians excelling in their fields, as well as – if today’s news reports are any indication – quite possibly also a handful of Chinese Communist Party spies.
But we have been reminded in the media over just the last three days that progress is not going to be at all easy in overcoming an additional obstacle that in recent times has become very real indeed for one sub-set of our Asian-Ausralian community: Chinese-Australians.
Thank you for the honour and privilege of being invited to deliver this 2019 Australian Asian Foundation Oration. I have been deeply impressed by everything I have learned about the activities of the Foundation, under Cheri Ong’s inspiring leadership, since its establishment in 2015: the way in which you have been encouraging and developing a culture of giving...