Peter Chan was a dear friend and colleague for those of us who served with him in the committee of the Chinese Australian Forum (CAF).
Peter and I served together in the CAF committee for almost 10 years. In this period, we would both have co-attended a prodigious number of committee meetings, sub-committee meetings, community events and political functions.
In getting to know Peter in these years, it is no surprise to me he belonged to an elite group of very passionate Chinese Australians who rallied together in 1985 to form the Chinese Australian Forum, then known as the Australian Chinese Forum.
CAF was formed in the midst of pretty tough times for Asian Australians. The end of the White Australia Policy in 1973 had led to increased intakes of Asian migrants. Asians were more visible in the streets of Sydney and use of the term “a person of Asian appearance” was gaining currency in the media. Prominent Australians including Professor Geoffrey Blainey were calling for a review into Asian immigration. At street level, abuse and violence directed at Asians were up a notch or two.
Against this backdrop, the scene was set for CAF to become a big part of Peter Chan’s life. He had always been a strong believer in CAF’s core objective of fighting racism and racial discrimination. And he was a strong supporter of the ideals of a Multicultural Australia.
Peter served CAF with distinction. In committee meetings, he was always a keen contributor on matters of policy. His work in this area was always well considered and community interested.
It was in this period that Peter showed what a tireless fighter he was for the advancement of the Chinese community in Australia.
The extent of Peter’s passion for CAF issues was further demonstrated in his unwavering support for “No Change” to Sec 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, even when his health was failing him when he relinquished committee duties.
It is ironic that as we speak, there is a Parliamentary Inquiry in progress in Canberra to determine the fate of S18c.
In recognition of Peter’s long and distinguished service to CAF, he was honoured with a Life membership by the committee. It is an honour he richly deserves.
In any history book to be written in future about CAF, Peter Chan will always be fondly remembered as one of CAF’s founding fathers.