One of the foremost members of the Chinese community in Australia, Yick Chong Louie, has passed away at 96.
Mr Louie is remembered as a fiercely determined leader who played a prominent role in giving the Chinese community strong representation, especially at a time of heightened tensions stemming from the White Australia Policy.
Those who knew him said he was passionate and dedicated and fought to ensure the Chinese community’s contributions to Australia’s society, history, economy and culture were properly recognised.
He was one of the founders of the Australian Chinese Community Association (ACCA) established in 1974 and the Australian Nursing Home Foundation (ANHF) which started its operations in 1980.
The ACCA is considered one of Mr Louie’s greatest achievements and on behalf of the organisation, he was the main instigator of the Chinese Garden Project in Darling Harbour. He was awarded an MBE in 1978.
When Mr Louie started his life in Australia, he worked as the manager of a grocery shop, Hang Sing, in Dixon Street.
His daughter and ANHF Chair, Ellen Louie described her father as an enthusiastic and humble man who did not seek recognition for his achievements and contributions.
She said: “At the time, there weren’t a lot of Chinese people, (so) we all knew each other and we helped each other. My father wanted to help all Chinese people and he was very involved in the ACCA, the Chung Shan Society, and the ANHF.”
How Mr Louie helped establish the first ethnic-specific nursing home for the Chinese-Australian community
In the 1970s and 1980s, there were many Chinese-speaking elderly people living in appalling conditions in and around Chinatown in Sydney.
Ms Louie said:
My father and a few of his friends felt there was a need to have a Chinese-speaking nursing (facility) to accommodate their specific needs, especially food and language.
Mr Louie, along with four other Chinese community leaders from ACCA: Dr Chen Ya Huang, the immediate past President; two Vice-Presidents Angeline O’Yang and Hatton Kwok; and Keep Fong, the founding President , devised an extensive and ambitious plan to buy a nursing home in Strathfield.
To provide additional funding, they were joined by James Gock, former honorary Treasurer of the ACCA, and Stephen Chiu.
In fact, all of them mortgaged their houses to secure a loan to buy the first nursing home for the ANHF.
Thanks to Mr Louie’s and other community leaders’ efforts, the 1983 Montrose Nursing Home was established as the first ethnic-specific nursing home for Chinese-Australians.
Ms Louie added: “My father had a lot of energy, tenacity, and a generous heart. He gained a lot of satisfaction in helping people, he met a lot of community members and business people who trusted my father. When organisations needed funding or help, they went to my dad.”
Mr Louie when he worked as a sailor. Source: Supplied/ Ellen Louie
Mr Louie’s achievements were known overseas
Because of Mr Louie’s and other community leaders’ tireless work, the Chinese community’s needs are represented today.
Ms Louie said during her father’s funeral service, the Chung Shan Society of Australia President read out telegrams and messages sent from a Chinese government department in China’s Zhongshan region, who paid tribute to Mr Louie’s outstanding work for the Chinese-Australian community.
Ms Louie added that the family had received many touching messages from people who knew him as well as people he had helped.
She said: “We received a card from the ACCA’s first social worker, whom he played a key role in employing.”
There was a lot of gratitude and respect because they felt my father had left a legacy. He helped many members of the Chinese community socially through the ACCA and the elderly with ANHF’s services, which has grown exponentially.
Angeline O’Yang, who served as the ACCA President from 1986 to 1989, said she had first met Mr Louie in Chinatown when she was working for the Department of Immigration’s settlement services.
She had been tasked by the department to connect and communicate with the Chinese community and described Mr Louie as being a profound inspiration to everyone who had worked with him.
Ms O’Yang said: “We worked together as a committee, and it was very harmonious and collaborative. We called him ‘Uncle Chong’.”
“We looked up to him as an uncle because he was a leader in Chinatown. The Chinese community relied on him to do a lot within Chinatown.
“He was always smiling and was very pleasant. He helped a lot of people like us and we followed his lead.”
Mr Louie. Source: Supplied/ Ellen Louie
Ms Louie added that the Chinese community, whether established or newly arrived, continued to benefit from her father’s legacy.
For example, the ANHF had expanded its services to also include home care, wellness centre services and social housing to accommodate a growing ageing Chinese community, she said.
Mr Louie passed away peacefully on May 29, 2022.He was the beloved husband of Ivy Sau Ying; treasured father of George, Anna, Ellen and Henry; respected father-in-law of David and Lena; adored grandfather and grandfather-in-law of 10 and great-grandfather of two.