Wow this is awesome! Asian Australians have been acknowledged and celebrated by Qantas, which hosted its belated 100th anniversary gala dinner on 31 March 2023.
Louis Li, Yasodai Selvakumaran, Councillor HY William Chan, Kylie Kwong, Sam Kerr, Catherine Li and Tan Le are among the honourees recognised for their influential leadership on the Qantas 100 Inspiring Australians honour roll. The list features unsung heroes, national treasures, quiet achievers and game-changers across a variety of fields – from design to entrepreneurship, and arts and culture to philanthropy.
So, let’s find out more about these awesome Asian Aussies!
02 /100 Louis Li
The son of Chinese property developers, Louis Li is an unlikely hero. He moved to Victoria in 2007 to study film before designing Mornington Peninsula hotel Jackalope at the age of 25 in 2007. The hotel is so unusual it could have been dismissed as an over-the-top fantasy. Instead it’s garnered coveted awards and praise from locals.
08 /100 Yasodai Selvakumaran
The Sri Lanka-born daughter of Tamil refugees who moved to the NSW Riverina in 1988, Yasodai Selvakumaran was just a preschooler when the seeds were planted for her teaching career. She recalls her feeling of frustration at not being able to speak English. Almost three decades later, the now 32-year-old is harnessing that same power to assist her own students at Rooty Hill High School in Sydney’s western suburbs, as well as mentor more than 200 of her fellow teachers. In 2019, she was the only Australian to make the final short list of the Global Teacher Prize, which awards US$1 million (about $1.45 million) to an outstanding educator.
19 /100 Councillor HY William Chan
Where others see a building, Councillor HY William Chan sees a facility for empowerment. By using his expertise to help people in vulnerable communities, the architect and urbanist is working to create social change. One of Chan’s most lauded projects was conceived in conjunction with residents of a refugee camps in Greece, where he developed a program that uses 3D printers to transform plastic waste into objects that improve living environments such as locks and shelters.
As a former UNICEF young ambassador, a World Economic Forum global shaper and fellow with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Chan has a global platform but his dedication to empowerment through skill sharing has an impact closer to home, too. He is heavily involved in surf lifesaving, particularly beach safety education for migrants, and works with disadvantage people in Sydney to improve housing outcomes and raise living standards.
22 /100 Kylie Kwong
“With my restaurant Billy Kwong, I always said I wanted to go deeper, not broader. I was able to create an authentic and meaningful version of Australian-Cantonesestyle food, while learning about the rich cultural heritage of our First Nations people – it was an absolute privilege.”
36 /100 Sam Kerr
When did you start playing football and were you good right away?
I was 12 years old and I don’t think I was very good at all. I grew up playing Aussie Rules so a round ball was a bit off for me.
You’re now captain of the Matildas and one of the best players in the world. How do you handle the pressure?
It’s natural and I feel the most pressure from myself. When something doesn’t go right, I tend to stew on it but I try not to let my highs be too high or my lows too low. I surround myself with people I love as a reminder that it’s just a game.
38 /100 Catherine Li
You usually work on the renal ward. Did you volunteer for the infectious diseases team?
Dr Gerrard was looking for someone who spoke Mandarin and I was on that night – it was good timing. When they asked me I said, “Yeah, I can speak Mandarin” and then I thought, ‘Wait, what’s this for?’ Because I’d heard we had a confirmed case. It was confirmed at 8pm, I went to work at 9pm and got called at about 10.30pm.
Were you nervous?
I was but when I got to the infectious diseases ward, Dr Gerrard was there and a person from infection control told us what to do, like how to put on and take off PPE [personal protective equipment] in the correct order. There was a team of people, everything was calm and I felt really supported.
43 /100 – Tan Le
In 1982, after a dangerous journey by boat from Vietnam then three months in a refugee camp, Tan Le stepped onto Australian soil. As her mother worked several jobs at a time, Le studied hard to graduate from high school, going on to study law when she was only 16. While still at university she was awarded the 1998 Young Australian of the Year Award for her advocacy work with the Vietnamese community in Footscray, Melbourne.
And today, the little girl who touched the ground all those years ago spends her days making things special in other people’s minds. Le is the founder and CEO of Emotiv, a groundbreaking company that designs headsets that measure wearers’ brain activity and uses that information to “control” tech in the external world. Her work has allowed a man who lost the use of his limbs to drive a Formula One car and a paralysis victim to communicate again.
Congrats to all these awesome Asian Aussies!!