What counts, what matters?


Image via Ibis World
Please forgive the cheesy, and ultimately misleading image attached to this story – sure, Australia is tensely awaiting the outcome of its federal election, but this story is not really about that.

As much as we can’t resist weighing into the delicious implosion that is Australian politics at the moment, we will only have the chance to do so obliquely. For we asked for your votes on just who was moving and shaking in ways that inspired you in the Australian context and you definitely obliged. You sent individuals, groups, half remembered lists, wandering links and general vague descriptions – “you know, the woman on Hi-5, what’s her name again?” – to nominate the powerful, wonderful, personal, thoughtful and diverse individuals that make Australia the “exciting” place that it is.

Over the coming days, we are happy/haphazard to share your list of Asians to Watch Out For, as a pleasing/confusing respite to what will no doubt be interminable election coverage.

While your list of Asians to Watch Out For is not quite as long as the Senate ballot, it was definitely as confusing and here at Peril we have none of Antony Green’s flair for detail. So consider this as fragile and wonderful as all of the crowd-sourced things you have ever consumed before in public media.

Given the absolutely excruciating sense of timing, we’re going to kick things off with those figures nominated by you as Asians to Watch Out For who have a relationship to business, community leadership and politics.

Some caveats. Sadly, due to time constraints, we haven’t been able to check how these individual’s identify (or don’t) with their cultural background; if you see someone on this list that you think would feel uncomfortable being named here, then please contact us. We’re not here to police people’s identities or to pigeon-hole individuals, so just let us know if the list needs changing. Equally, because we were simply canvassing your general ideas, there’s really no system going on here, and certainly no endorsement. Because the list got too long, we grouped people into some semi-sensible categorisations, but the highlight is on the semi. If you’d like to add someone to the list, even yourself – why not send us an email or simply add a comment below?

We’ve taken the liberty of combining business and politics here in this first section, given that both fields highlight a kind of formal power and institutionalised recognition. Perhaps because of the cohort of Peril readers and their focus on art and culture, there are surprisingly few business nominations, although you may instead consider the bamboo ceiling to be at play (see, for example, the Asian Australian Lawyer’s Association Report on this very issue). There’s also a smattering of community and civic figures.

In the political sphere, on the other hand, the question is always one of numbers. And the question is being asked by many, including former-Peril-er, Jarni Blakkarly, who want to know why is Australian politics so white? The question, even more so now, feels critical for Australia to understand.

By The original uploader was L42A1 at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2805638
By The original uploader was L42A1 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2805638
Beautifully, coincidentally, this edition featured two individuals who were nominated by you as #dangerasians, Wesa Chau and William “Billy” Sing. Wesa, aspiring Labour politician, shared her latest creative endeavours to engage communities with traditional dress and multicultural fashion and Billy Sing, Chinese Australian serviceman and titular referent of Adam Aitken’s ascerbic poem, In the Billy Sing Bagdad Bar-and-Grill.

As I said right at the beginning of this edition’s journey together, there was a sinister sense of the cyclical as certain politicians made their way back into the nation’s consciousness. So it is with the strangest sense of fabulous and foreboding that we share this list – in no particular order –  Asians to Watch Out For.


  • Penny Wong. Labour Senator for South Australia. Out, proud, smart, and your leading vote for political #ATWOF. Probably only rivalled by Lee Lin Chin in terms of suggestions. We think. We forgot to count. In fact, a country run by both sounds just about perfect right now.
  • Tim Soutphommasane, Race Discrimination Commissioner, academic, public thinker and all round voice of reason.
  • Shemara Wikramanayake, Head of Macquarie Asset Management, and reputedly one of Australia’s highest paid female executives.
  • Wesa Chau, one-time Labour candidate, but all round indefatiguable community advocate.
  • RISE: Refugees Survivors and Ex-detainees, the first refugee and asylum seeker organisation in Australia to be run and governed by refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees. You nominated folks like Founder and CEO, Ramesh Fernandez, really, their entire organisation deserves a massive shout out for the power of their work.
  • His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le, Governor of South Australia, community leader and widely recognised civic contributor.
  • David Teoh, TPG’s “famously reclusive” CEO. Also making mad bank.
  • Rachel Jacobs, academic, activist, dancer, one-time Greens candidate who inadvertently started the #Illridewithyou campaign.
  • The Asian Australian Lawyers Association. As the website says: first incorporated association in Australia to focus on the growing number of Asian Australian lawyers in the profession, as well as other lawyers with an interest in Asia. See above for their general badassery in terms of identifying structural bias in the Australian legal industry.
  • Billy Sing, Chinese Australia World War I soldier, best known as a crack sniper in Gallipoli – and more recently as a white-washed version for mini-series digestibility.
  • Melba Marginson, community advocate and activist – my Mum’s nomination, and a tireless community leader.
  • Lisa Singh, Labor Senator for Tasmania (at time of nomination)
  • Ian Goodenough, Liberal member for Moore in Western Australia (still)
  • Omar Khan, investment banker making waves with Cresent Wealth. Frankly, I know little about investment banking, but I love the idea that the 2013 Australia’s Top Emerging Leader award was a fund manager that specialises in investing in line with Islamic business principles, and the fund is now managing over $100m in Islamic super and investments and there’s not a damn thing Pauline Hanson can do about it.

Author: Eleanor Jackson

Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer and community radio broadcaster. Eleanor Jackson is a former Editor in Chief and Poetry Editor of Peril and currently Chair of the Board.

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