Managing Director's Speech at 30th Anniversary Dinner Party of ACAE
Good evening to all of you, thank you very much for joining us to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of ACAE. Many institutions are here tonight including DE International, University of Newcastle, Macquarie University, MEGT, Top Education, SCU, Insearch, UniSA all the way from Adelaide, UTS, Navitas, ICMS, UNSW, USyd, etc. I am delighted that so many of those who have helped me reach this milestone are here tonight.
I came to this beautiful country on a student dependent visa while Sam undertook studies at ANU. We only planned to stay in Canberra for 3 years before returning home and we are still here.
You might have already heard this story of me standing in Civic and asking people how to get to the downtown area. For those of you familiar with Canberra, you'll know that Civic IS the downtown! That was the first shock, goodness me, this is downtown? What fun can we have here?
The second shock was the food. The only Chinese grocery shop was called Yin Shun Hong, they hardly stocked any fresh produce and the bean curd had a burnt taste and would quickly sour. So, on our occasional visit to Sydney in those days, we stocked up.
Just like many international students find when they arrive these days, it was initially very difficult to adjust to living in Australia.
Once we had settled in, our student years at ANU were simple and enjoyable, but most importantly we made many good friends during our time there. Some of them are here tonight.
After completing his studies Sam accepted a job offer at UNSW, so we had to move to Sydney and at the same time starting our family.
Moving to Sydney was another new beginning for us. I rejoined the work force initially working as a part time social worker at the Australian Chinese Community Association (ACCA). I was responsible for the welfare of elderly migrants for the next few years. ACCA was a wonderful experience for me - as a new migrant myself, the role provided a great opportunity to learn about Australian society, everything from the welfare system to the legal system. I made another group of friends in ACCA, all of whom were professionals devoting much of their spare time to serve the community. We would have so much fun organizing events such as Christmas parties, Chinese New Year banquets, annual balls, trips and fund-raising activities. The successful fashion show event held in a hotel in Double Bay is till vividly in my memory. I am pleased to see many of those friends here this evening.
After 7 years at ACCA I joined the Department of Health before starting ACAE in late 1988.
So my background in the non-profit sector and as a social worker really laid the foundation for my philosophy behind ACAE. I started ACAE with the conviction that I should use my knowledge and skills to help the international students who were going through a major life transition. I found a little office to share in Pitt Street and shortly afterwards moved to a bigger office around the corner. My wonderful friend Irene came to work with me to provide services to Chinese International students. I am very pleased that Irene and her husband Dr. Sae Lee are here this evening. But this soon came to a halt following the Tian On Men Square incident in June 1989. We were very lucky to be able to turn to the Korean market. Kathy, a matured age Korean student, worked part time for me. She enabled us to become the first onshore education agent recruiting Korean students. I also opened an office in HK in 1989, and participated in many Australian education exhibitions organized by Austrade.
In the mid 90's we moved our office to Sussex Street, concentrating our recruitment activities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, China, and South East Asia. I still remember the air pollution in Bangkok. Once stepping out of the hotel door, the air was full of Tut Tut exhaust. The Jarkata traffic was horrific. A 2 minutes drive from one block to another would turn out to be over half an hour. After several years of expansion, we made our third move to our current office in 2003.
In order to build and maintain relationships with institutions, students and parents, we set up an office in a Chinese university in 2007.
As our business has continued to expand, I am very happy to share that we opened our first office in Beijing last year. I'm even prouder to be able to say that I've opened it in conjunction with one of my former students as the manager. At ACAE, we pride ourselves on building personal relationships with the students and families that we help. Tonight, joining us, we have students from the pre Tian On Men era, student I was guardian of now running a successful takeaway business and her father is also here, HK student who came in the 90's now settled down with a successful career and a happy family, etc.
People often ask me how I could be in this industry for so long – for 30 years now. I guess the answer is that I genuinely enjoy what I do. Of course, there have been many challenges over the years, but they are far outweighed by the happy memories this business has given me. More importantly – we wouldn't have been able to achieve what we have accomplished without the support of many people and institutions, including the people in this room. There are still a lot of things we want to achieve, but it gives me great comfort to know I can count on your ongoing support and inspiration.
Again, thank you all for coming this evening, I really appreciate it.