Malaysian-born former dolphin trainer speechless after winning Tangney MP seat

Sam Lim was a dolphin trainer, a successful businessman, and a cop who could speak 10 languages. Now he has become the new MP by snatching the seat of Tangney from the Liberals.

Sam Lim unexpectedly wrested Tangney from Ben Morton

Sam Lim unexpectedly wrested Tangney from Ben Morton Source: Facebook/ Sam Lim

Mr Lim said he could not believe that he had been able to wrestle the seat from sitting member Ben Morton as it had been held by the Liberals since 1984.

The upset win was even more remarkable given the seat had been won by the Liberals with a margin of 9.5 per cent in the last federal poll in 2019.

“There are no words to express my gratitude except to say that I will always remember it,” Mr Lim told SBS Chinese on Monday.

The new federal MP told SBS Chinese on Monday morning: “In the days to come, I will take one step at a time and move forward to repay the trust and expectation of (the people of) Tangney and the Australian voters.”

WA Police officer Sam Lim has taken out top WA Police excellence award.
WA Police officer Sam Lim has taken out top WA Police excellence award. Source: Facebook/WA Police

Starting his career as a cop on the beat in Malaysia

Mr Lim was born and raised in Malaysia and started his career as a local police officer. 

After fulfilling his childhood dream of being a dolphin trainer, he said he had decided to go into another dream field of policing.

In 2006, after just a year in the job, Mr Lim migrated to Australia with his young family and the 45-year-old became a member of the Western Australia Police Force. 

“[Being] a police officer is a great job, I love the blue uniform,” he said at a press conference on Sunday.

Mr Lim said his Malaysian background had given him an excellent aptitude for languages, describing his abilities as “nine plus one”, in which “one” represented English and “nine” included but was not limited to Malay, Mandarin, Bahasa Indonesia, and Burmese. 

“Many immigrants don't trust the (local) police because of some past experiences, and because they don't understand police matters, have language barriers and have different cultural backgrounds,” he told in the lead up to the election. 

Mr Lim said his communication had become one of the most important tools to fill the gap between the migrant community and the local cops, which led him to the WA police headquarters in 2017.

Since then, Mr Lim, as an officer, had conducted nearly 100 law awareness presentations in multicultural communities over a three-year period.

Sam Lim
Sam Lim is a 14-year veteran with Western Australian Police. Source: Sam Lim

The communicator in multicultural communities

“Language is an important part of communication,” he said, “…(for example) when I meet Fujianese people, I open my mouth in Fujianese, (and any) the barrier we have will be gone,” Mr Lim said. 

“When I go to the Indonesian community to meet them, and to disseminate knowledge of the law, I do it in Indonesian.”

He said these skills had been especially important during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

“The most important thing was that during the epidemic, people were on edge as well as the rumors were flying,” he said. “…and I just quickly translated the English (information) into Chinese, Burmese, and so on, and then answered their (the community's) questions and quickly dispelled the unease.”

A large number of racist acts were reported against people with Asian heritage during the COIVD-19 outbreak, which Mr Lim said had also happened locally in Perth.

He said he would search for the victims via online platforms to collect information and solve problems.

He said the community had appreciated the police when he followed up on the racist acts with the victims. 

During the pandemic, he said he had also gathered a group of dedicated Chinese volunteers and created the “Officer Lim Exchange Group” on the Chinese social media WeChat for local Chinese to consult, which had reached thousands of participants.

He said he went around in the community and introduced himself “like a salesman”.

 “I went to universities, elementary schools, secondary schools, clubs, temples, churches to give presentations on how to protect yourself, what the police do, and the importance of calling the police, etc.,” he said.

The first Chinese to win the WA police excellence awards

Mr Lim’s wonderful work led to him becoming the first Chinese to receive the WA Police Officer Excellence Award on December 10, 2020. 

WA Police officer Sam Lim has taken out top WA Police excellence award
WA Police officer Sam Lim has taken out top WA Police excellence award Source: provided by Sam Lim

He said this honour still made him proud and he believed that Australia was a society that “gives people more confidence, and rewards people with opportunities as long as they work hard.”

His “salesman” character played an important role again in the federal election campaign after he was approached by the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

“When I went (to campaign) by door knocking, almost all of them told me that ‘Sam, you are the first candidate to come to my door,’” Mr Lim said.

He told SBS Chinese that the interaction with the communities during the campaign boosted his confidence even more.

“I (am) constantly (in) contact with voters who would be around 100 people every day. And I got a lot of encouragement in this process because the voters were all looking for change, and they all rejoiced that I was standing up for them,” Mr Lim said.

Mr Lim said believed the number one local issue that needed to be addressed urgently in Tangney was the rising cost of living.

Tangney includes the affluent areas of Applecross and Ardross on the south bank of the Swan River, and, prior to Mr Lim’s win, had been held by the Liberals for nearly four decades. 

“There is a big challenge for me to do better and I hope the ALP can be there for the next 45 years,” he said.

5 min read
Published 23 May 2022 at 5:04pm
By Helen Chen, Minyue Ding