Asian Australian Awards – Most Influential Asian-Australians announced for 2020
While laboratories still endeavour to create a vaccine to eradicate COVID-19, the annual Asian-Australian Leadership Summit (AALS) actively addressed the most stigmatising repercussion of the pandemic: racism.
Convened by PwC Australia, Asialink at the University of Melbourne, Johnson Partners and the Australian National University over a four-day online summit this October, it devised new strategies, created new partnerships and identified champions of change to enable Asian-Australians to advance from the backrooms to the boardrooms and succeed in obtaining leadership positions.
Ending on a high note, the winners of its 40 Under 40: Most influential Asian-Australian Awards (now in its second year) were announced during an online ceremony, promoting the achievements of young Asian-Australian leaders under 40 years of age in the higher echelons of politics, business, media, sport, science and medicine, education and the arts, plus not-for-profit endeavours and activism.
“Amidst the escalation of anti-Asian sentiment in Australia exacerbated by the pandemic, these awards are especially significant this year. Uncertainty and unrest breeds change via innovation, excellence and the challenging of expectations. Recognition of the talent and strong leadership skills so many Asian-Australians possess is essential to elevate our prosperity and safeguard our country from a racist future,” enthuses Jason Johnson, an award jury panelist and Managing Partner of Johnson Partners.
Australia has a significant and growing Asian-Australian community at around 12 per cent of the total population, yet according to the Australian Human Rights Commission Cultural Diversity Leadership Blueprint, less than 5 per cent of Australians of Asian heritage make it to senior executive levels in corporations — only 1.6 per cent become CEO’s. “It is imperative that the award-winners’ Asian-Australian peers see their achievements not only as aspirational but as accessible career paths, and that white Australians are mutually aware of and inspired by their successes. Inclusivity is the key,” adds Johnson.
Of the 170+ award applications received earlier this year, the submissions were culled to a core list of 40 to then determine one winner amongst nine categories, plus an overall winner. This year, only two of the nine category leaders were men, with barrister Lyma Nyguyen taking out the overall accolade for her contribution to the Australian legal profession whilst driving the country’s engagement with Asia. This is particularly significant given that while Australia is making progress on many aspects of gender equality, female representation in leadership continues to be a cause for concern. Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) 2018-19 data demonstrates that while women make up half (50.2%) of the private sector workforce, women make up only 31.5% of key management positions, 26.8% of directors, 17.1% of CEO’s and 14.1% of board chairs.
“Amidst the escalation of anti-Asian sentiment in Australia exacerbated by the pandemic, these awards are especially significant this year. Uncertainty and unrest breeds change via innovation, excellence and the challenging of expectations. Recognition of the talent and strong leadership skills so many Asian-Australians possess is essential to elevate our prosperity and safeguard our country from a racist future.”Jason Johnson - Managing Partner, Johnson Partners and Co-Founder 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards
THE 2020 40 UNDER 40: MOST INFLUENTIAL ASIAN-AUSTRALIAN AWARD WINNERS INCLUDE:
OVERALL WINNER AND PROFESSIONS SECTOR WINNER: Lyma Nguyen, Darwin
Lyma has provided over ten years of pro bono legal services to hundreds of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime including foreign nationals and members of the Cambodian diaspora plus ethnic Vietnamese civilians who were the subject of genocide atrocities. Dealing with contemporary human rights and statelessness concerns, Lyma is deemed an international expert in nationality laws. Also practicing at the bar, her work predominantly focuses on criminal cases, but also includes youth justice, mental health, human rights, administrative law, disciplinary committees and tribunal matters.
COMMUNITY & ADVOCACY / NOT FOR PROFIT SECTOR: Danni Hui, Sydney
Having achieved success as an executive in the utilities industry specialising in disaster management, critical infrastructure operations plus work health and safety, it was Danni’s son’s diagnosis of a rare disease that propelled him to found Sameview, an innovative online platform that connects families with the right team of caregivers to support children with disabilities. It advocates more effective health care delivery through improved collaboration networks that currently support over 1,000 people across Australia and New Zealand.
CORPORATE SECTOR: Shelli Trung, Melbourne
Shelli has led investment decision making for two venture firms in the last five years including REACH Australia and Second Century Ventures, the second largest global proptech fund with a portfolio of 100+ investments – a remarkable achievement given that only 13% of women world-wide are involved in venture investment decision making (as quoted at the RAISE 2020 global summit). She has also actively championed state grant funding for Queensland start-ups and enabled over $3m in funding to start-ups for the QUT CEA Creative Tech Fund.
EDUCATION SECTOR: Wesa Chau, Melbourne
Wesa is the CEO of Cultural Intelligence, a specialist consultancy firm helping organisations understand the power of cultural diversity. As an advocate for social change, she is a commentator on diversity issues on Australian mainstream media including The Age, The Guardian, ABC, SBS, plus Channels 7, 9 and 10.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Usman Iftikhar, Sydney
Usman is a systems entrepreneur who passionately utilises the power of entrepreneurship to collectively solve the global climate emergency and global refugee crisis. He is the co-founder and CEO of Catalysr, a start-up pre-accelerator in Australia which empowers migrant and refugee entrepreneurs to launch their own business start-ups. Catalysr has supported 345 migrant and refugee entrepreneurs from 40+ countries and champions the contribution of migrant and refugee business owners to Australia.
PUBLIC / GOVERNMENT SECTOR: Tessa Sullivan, Melbourne
As a lawyer and officer of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Tessa has worked in the areas of immigration, human rights plus family and criminal law, and is the first Thai-Chinese National to be elected into Government. Her advocacy in the #MeToo era and campaigns against violence against women has made her the ‘face’ of the movement in Australia (she single-handedly changed the legislation in local government to acknowledge and prevent such offences).
ARTS & CULTURE SECTOR: Pearl Tan, Sydney
Pearl is a screen content maker and educator and founding director of Pearly Productions, a filmmaking boutique that focuses on conversations amongst people with diverse backgrounds. She balances this pursuit with her role as Senior Lecturer in Directing at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) where she is instrumental in influencing and guiding the next generation of storytellers and shapes the school’s policies regarding diversity and inclusion.
SCIENCE & MEDICINE SECTOR: Madhu Bhaskaran, Melbourne
Madhu is a professor who co-leads the Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group at RMIT University. Her work seeks to transform conventional hard electronics into soft and unbreakable products, thin enough to create electronic skin. She co-founded the Women Researchers’ network at RMIT University in 2013 which significantly shaped the university’s Gender Equality Action Plan and currently sits on the National Board of Directors for Women in STEM Australia, connecting women across all sectors and career stages to each other.
SPORT SECTOR: Minjee Lee, Perth
Minjee is an Australian professional golfer from Perth. She became the number one ranked amateur golfer in February 2014 after winning the Oates Victorian Open, remaining number one until turning professional that September. She ended 2018 ranked second on the money list with $1,551,032 in earnings. In 2019, Minjee won the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open, her fifth LPGA Tour victory. By late the following month, she had risen to number two in the Women’s World Golf Rankings.
“It is imperative that the award-winners’ Asian-Australian peers see their achievements not only as aspirational but as accessible career paths, and that white Australians are mutually aware of and inspired by their successes. Inclusivity is the key”Jason Johnson - Managing Partner, Johnson Partners and Co-Founder 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards
THE 2020 40 UNDER 40: MOST INFLUENTIAL ASIAN-AUSTRALIAN AWARD JURY INCLUDES:
The 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australian award winners were selected with the help of leading executive search firm, Johnson Partners, and a panel of judges including the firm’s Managing Partner Jason Johnson. Others include:
Muneera Bano, Senior Lecturer at Deakin University
Vivek Bhatia, Managing Director at Link Group
Penny Burtt, Group Chief Executive Officer, Asialink at the University of Melbourne
Rachna Ghandi, General Manager of Group Operations, Westpac
Adam Liaw , writer and television presenter (and 2019 winner)
Kathrina Lo, New South Wales Public Service Commissioner
Jieh-Yung Lo, Director of the ANU Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership
Annette Shun, Wah Artistic Director – OzAsia Festival
Kumi Taguchi, ABC Journalist, Broadcaster and Presenter
Su Ming Wong Chief Executive Officer, CHAMP Ventures
Ken Woo , Partner, PwC
Johnson Partners will feature monthly interviews with each of this years’ category winners to further explore their career achievements and the challenges they have confronted in their pursuit for excellence – from bamboo ceilings to political and economic hurdles, amongst others. Starting with the overall winner, Lyma Nguyen, they will also address insights into their views regarding Australia’s post-COVID economy.
Discover the 40 Under 40 2019 and 2020 winners here