After a long battle with illness, Dr Anthony (Tony) Pun passed away on May 17 in Sydney, aged 77, after a lifetime of service, advocating at the highest levels of government for better health outcomes and ethnic harmony for all Australians
A formal tribute to Tony’s lifetime contribution was recorded in Federal Parliament on May 24 led by the Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney MP.
As Malaysian born Chinese, from the moment Tony arrived in 1964, he dedicated his life to Australia his adopted home, and to bringing communities together to prevent racism.
After completing a PhD in molecular biology at the University of NSW in 1978, Tony was made chief research scientist at St Vincent’s Hospital, authored academic papers on blood transfusion, haematology survey, clinical laboratory computing and bone marrow transplantation and served on the Australian Pharmaceutical Advisory Council.
Tony went on to gain national prominence with his work for the Chinese diaspora and wider Australian community and regularly had the ear of Australian Prime Ministers. He was known to be a friend of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, the pair photographed together commemorating the 30th anniversary of Australia’s diplomatic relations with China in 2002. In 1989 following the Tiananmen Square massacre, Tony as then President of the Australian Chinese Community Association was able to call on Prime Minister Bob Hawke to allow Chinese students to stay in Australia. Hawke responded offering asylum not just to the students but to all of the 42,000 Chinese nationals in Australia. However, Tony was emphatic that he was not a partisan political operator and over his career worked well with Prime Ministers and politicians from both sides.
Tony went on to chair the government’s Ethnic Communities Council between 1997 and 2003, was a member of the Immigration Review Tribunal and the Equal Opportunity Tribunal, as well as being founding president of the Chinese Community Council of Australia, a founding member of the Chinese Australian Forum, founding Chair of the Multicultural Communities Council NSW and an active participant in the Australia Health Reform Association. Tony authored more than 400 articles on Australian public policy and geopolitics in Australian and international publications.
Always ready to confront injustice and prejudice head on, it was in November 2020 when Tony appearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee that he immediately condemned the deputy Chair, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz who had notoriously asked three young Chinese-Australians appearing voluntarily before that same Senate Committee to “unconditionally condemn” the mainland Chinese Government.
Dr Tony Pun was honoured with the NSW Premier’s Award for Community Service on three occasions (1991, 1996 and 2010), was celebrated in the NSW Legislative Council for his extensive involvement with Chinese community organisations, government advisory committees and multicultural organisations over decades. He also spent nine years as an Australia Day Council ambassador, and in 1997 was awarded the Order of Australia for services to the Chinese community.