2022’s Most influential Asian-Australian in business revealed

The country’s brightest and most ambitious Asian-Australians are being recognised in the 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards next week, while experts call out the negative impact of the ‘bamboo ceiling’ in Australia.

The Australian National University Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership founding director, Jieh-Yung Lo, says these awards have shined a light on the incredible leadership talent and potential of Asian-Australians – but there is still a long way to go.

“There is a lack of recognition of and focus on leveraging Asian-Australian talent. We need to call out and address the negative impacts created by the bamboo ceiling,” says Mr Lo.

“Nearly one in five people in Australia has an Asian cultural heritage, yet only about 3% of senior management positions are held by Asian-Australians.”


“The key barriers preventing Asian-Australian talent from reaching leadership roles within Australian organisations are cultural bias and stereotyping; westernised leadership models; lack of relationship capital such as access to mentors, sponsors and high-powered and influential networks, and the case for cultural diversity not understood within organisations and workplaces.”  

“A recurring concern expressed by many Asian-Australians is that they feel under constant pressure – more so than other non-Anglo or European Australians – to change their behaviour for the purpose of ‘fitting in’.”

“Asian-Australians have indicated from their personal and professional experiences significant levels of bias, discrimination and racism still existing against them in both work and non-work situations.”  

Research undertaken by Australian National University found 82% of surveyed Asian-Australians report they have experienced discrimination in Australia, which was the highest amongst all the self-identified ethnic groups in the study. 

Some 65% of the Asian-Australians reported being discriminated against in the workplace, while the most common setting for discrimination was at a shop or restaurant (71%). The survey showed that the most commonly barriers to Asian-Australians obtaining leadership positions in business, professional and other organisational roles cited by Asian-Australians themselves were ‘stereotypes associated with the group’ (42%) and discrimination (44%).  

ABF media

40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards applicants are judged across the fields of arts and culture, community and advocacy, corporate, education, entrepreneurship, legal and professions, media, public sector, science and medicine, and sport. This year’s winners include:

  • Overall winner: Western Sydney Vietnamese-Australian lawyer Tu Le, last year went for ALP preselection in the safe seat of Fowler, a largely Vietnamese and culturally diverse electorate, against Kristina Keneally. Tu’s parents were separated for almost a decade after her father spent years in Australia learning and educating himself, before sponsoring his family and bringing them here. She has also facilitated a program for men from minority communities and advocated against the exploitation of temporary visa and migrant workers.
  •  Science and medicine winner: Associate Professor Rona Chandrawati moved to Australia after completing high school in Indonesia. She faced the hardship of transitioning into a new culture and learning a new language, but has gone on to become Australia’s leading researcher in colorimetric food sensory technology, with her patented colour sensors attached to food packaging to help prevent spoilage. This is critical considering 7.6 million tonnes of food is lost or wasted every year in Australia alone, even worse with 70% of this food being perfectly edible and one in six Australian adults not having enough to eat in the last year, according to the not for profit organisation, Foodbank.
  • Entrepreneurship winner: Leading property and construction professional, and the granddaughter of Hong Kong social housing residents, Belinda Bentley is co-founder and director of independent property investment and advisory group 9Springs. She is also the Australian representative to the ULI Asia Pacific Housing Council; a best practice think tank focused on alternative housing methods and housing affordability. Her contribution to the community has seen her play a key role at a mental health organisation, become a guest lecturer and tutor to students at the University of Technology and mentor others to help grow their businesses.
  • Arts and culture winner: The youngest daughter of immigrant parents from Hong Kong and Malaysia, Michelle Law’s latest play, ‘Top Coast’, was commissioned by the Sydney Theatre Company and premiered in July-August. Her latest comedy explores race, representation, privilege and taking woke culture to task. She is also the playwright and creator of Belvoir’s ‘Single Asian Female’ and SBS’s ‘Homecoming Queens’. 
  • Under 25 rising star: Angelina Inthavong who has a Cambodian, Lao, Vietnamese and Chinese background and comes from a single income house already has a formidable career in youth politics championing ‘period poverty’ and mental health issues. As a member of the Queensland Youth Parliament, she championed a bill which was passed in May, that all state schools in QLD would provide menstrual products.

Of the awards, Asialink CEO Martine Letts says: “An Asia-capable and connected Australia is fundamental to Australia’s future. The 40 under 40 Awards are unique as they highlight for the first time the key contribution talented Asian-Australians make in all productive sectors of our community – in the arts, research and education, media, sport, business and public life.”

Philanthropic patron and Executive Wealth Circle chair Susan Gin, adds: “I am delighted to be supporting this unique initiative which recognises the extraordinary contributions talented Asian-Australian leaders are making to the Australian community.”

The 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards, now in its fourth year, is an initiative of the Australian National University Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership, Asialink at the University of Melbourne and Johnson Partners.  


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