Australia’s FM Penny Wong shares a little bit on her Malaysian roots

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 29: Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong who is on a three-day official visit to Malaysia on Wednesday shared a little bit on her Malaysian roots with the audience of a networking brunch.

Wong was born in 1968 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah to an Australian-born mother and Chinese Malaysian father. When her parents split up, she moved with her mother and younger brother to Adelaide in South Australia at the age of eight.

Her grandmother Lai Fung Shim, of Hakka descent, had been a source of inspiration for her, describing her as the strongest person she has ever known. 

Her grandmother and her family were in Sandakan during World War II where most of the family members perished during the war, leaving Poh-Poh (her grandmother) alone to take care for her children in the hardest circumstances. 

“Her determination to survive, and to save herself and her children, is something from which I draw strength every day. 

 “She was barely literate. She was loving and humble, and the strongest person I have ever known. In times of struggle, I think of her, and what she had to endure,” she said of her grandmother in her speech during the event attended by representatives of the government, business and civil society here, today. 

Regarding her father Francis Wong, she said as a child he lived in poverty.

She described her father as a bright student who worked hard with his efforts earning him a Colombo Plan scholarship to study architecture at Adelaide University, Australia. 

 “The opportunity to study defined his life. It meant he could climb out of poverty he experienced as a child,” she said adding that Francis Wong eventually moved back to Kota Kinabalu with his family. 

Wong is the first foreign minister of Asian heritage. Before arriving in Malaysia, Wong was in Vietnam on Monday (June 27). After her appointment as the foreign minister early this month, she was in Indonesia with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. -TVS

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