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by Kathy Wong

Kathy’s journey has been about finding out it’s okay to be not okay, and then, having accepted that, she not only found her purpose in life but learnt that the ordinary becomes extraordinary through others. An inspirational story.

and he was not able to even get to their funeral as he had no money for the ticket back home. Life for both my parents was difficult and

they both grew up with so much fear, which is understandable, given their backgrounds. ‘You don’t trust anyone’, ‘You must be rich’, and ‘Having no money is a terrible thing’, are some if the fears they tried to instill in me. The other strong message was that security is everything in life. On top of this was the Asian cultural thing where you do not ever show your true face because it’s just not done. It’s a sign of weakness – so emotions were never really expressed and shared in our family. They also taught me the value of family,

very much the Asian thing too, plus hard work, honesty, respect and kindness. My parents are the most generous, giving people you could meet. They sacrifice everything, even themselves, for their kids. My childhood was very short. I remember accompanying Dad in his big truck before


rowing up in an Asian family in Sydney is interesting to say the least, and, being a banana, an

Australian-born Chinese, and the oldest of three children born to migrant parents, Malcolm and Jan Wong, was a double whammy for me. My mother arrived in Australia at age

6, fleeing the Japanese during World War 2, and was sent in a submarine from New Guinea, where she was born, to Australia. She came with her mother and at that time two sisters, one of whom was born in the jungle as they were fleeing the Japanese. My grandmother wanted to leave the newborn, my Aunty Edna, as she felt she could not take three children under such dire circumstances. Luckily the oldest girl, Margaret, would not have it and took charge of the baby. The girls all arrived in Sydney. They were separated from their father, and it was not until about six months after their arrival that they received a telegraph that my grandfather had been sent to Melbourne and the Australian government would reunite them soon. My father was sent to Australia at the age

of 16, to make a living and help support the family in China. He is the third oldest boy, and there are five siblings. His father had been quite a wealthy man, but when the Japanese invaded Dad’s motherland, their family too had a terrible time. My other grandfather had a business in gunpowder and so the Japanese wanted his business and took him as a prisoner in his own house. When this happened my father’s family lost all their wealth. When Dad arrived in Australia he had a distant uncle who gave him a job sweeping the floor of his fruit and vegetable shop. Dad pretty much had to fend for himself. Not long after he arrived in Australia, both Dad’s parents died suddenly,

364 days year. Christmas Day was a holiday. I can only remember three family holidays together as a child. When my brother and sister came along I had to take care of them while Mum and Dad worked. I was in my early teens then, wanting to just play with my friends and not be tied down to my siblings, and, as I passed this age and became a young adult I found that I felt very stifled not being able to spend the time with my friends because of this responsibility. It was the restaurant that allowed me to connect with adults and I became very comfortable talking to all types of people. I also felt the experience of being a business owner and I knew then that one day I would own my own business.

IT’S OKAY TO BE NOT OKAY After finishing my degree in design I had wanted to travel and work overseas. However, I found myself in two art director jobs immediately after completing college

I was school age as he ran from house to house delivering fresh fruit and veggies that he would have to buy at the markets before the sun was up. On one of these trips I was almost run down in the truck. Mum would be in the payphone all the time with her pennies making the phone calls to customers for their orders. At this time Dad held down two other jobs, driving a taxi and working at nights in a Chinese restaurant. I grew up with very little time being spent with my parents. After these jobs, Dad managed to start a

Chinese restaurant himself, and we lived above the restaurant. I was around eight and loved walking around talking to customers with my coloured pencils and drawing paper. Mum and Dad were always working

and engaged to a Chinese man my parents adored. With my art director roles I again played the responsible one, nurturing the other designers who reported to me. It was very scary, as I was so green myself. After a brief 16-month work career, where I questioned my abilities to handle the pressures of the design and advertising world, I started my own design business from the bedroom of our family home. Dad did not take me seriously that I was going to be an entrepreneur. He said I would just get married and have babies, because that’s what all good Chinese girls did. Well I did neither of those things in fact. I was engaged twice, lived in sin before getting married, and got divorced, had several miscarriages, and I was unable to bear children.


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