The 40 Under 40: Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards
at the inaugural Asian-Australian Leadership Summit


In a nationwide first, outstanding Asian-Australians have been recognised for their achievements in the ‘40 Under 40: Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards’. The Awards were a key part of the Asian-Australian Leadership Summit (AALS),which was held in Melbourne on 12th and 13th September 2019.

The AALS is a joint initiative of Asialink, PwC, Australian National University and Johnson, designed to address the under-representation of Asian-Australians in senior leadership positions.The initiative was held over two days, and consisted of a NextGenProgram, a Leadership Summit, and a Gala Dinner where the 40 Under 40: Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards were announced.

While Australia celebrates itself as a ‘multicultural success story’, the hard reality is that Asian-Australians are simply not getting into senior leadership positions at the same rate as non-Asian Australians.

“Asian-Australians account for roughly 12 per cent of Australia’s population, but they hold under four per cent of senior leadership positions”, PwC Asia Practice Leader Andrew Parker points out. “It’s time to celebrate the stories of success and confront the underlying issues that are holding back some of our best talent. Cultural diversity in leadership needs to be a high priority across our community”.

Shining a light on discrimination

A new study initiated ahead of the Summit reveals that eighty-two per cent of surveyed Asian-Australians report that they have experienced discrimination in Australia. According to the study, which was conducted by the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research & Methods and the Social Research Centre to determine ‘Exposure to and Perceptions of Discrimination’, sixty-five per cent of Asian-Australians reported being discriminated against in the workplace.

The survey showed that the most common barriers to Asian-Australians obtaining leadership positions in business, professional and other organisational roles were the ‘stereotypes associated with the group’ (forty-two per cent) and discrimination (forty-four per cent).

According to Penny Burtt, Group CEO of Asialink, the findings are a “stark illustration of the challenges faced by Asian-Australians in our society – and particularly in the workplace”.

“This study reinforces the need to do more to advance Asian-Australians in our workplaces, particularly given the important role that this community can play in our successful engagement with the Asian region”.

“…it’s frustrating to see
that in many quarters
we’re still discussing
whether there even is
a bamboo ceiling or
an ethnic wage gap,
despite ample statistical
evidence of both

– Adam Liaw

“The Asian century is off and running and we have in
our midst a fantastic resource with which to take maximum
advantage of all the opportunities it offers

– The Hon Gareth Evans AC QC

As Gareth Evans remarks, Asian-Australians are an “underappreciated and underutilized national resource”.
Australia’s success in the Asian Century will depend on our ability to harness the expertise
and skills of Asian-Australians in key leadership positions.
“The Summit and ‘40 under 40 Awards’ are a promising step in the right direction in both celebrating the vibrant contribution that outstanding Asian-Australians bring to our society, as well as energising the conversation surrounding the importance of AsianAustralian leadership in Australia,” said Professor Evans.

To find about more about this initiative, visit asianaustralianleadership.com.au.


Overall Winner
Dr Muneera Bano
Lecturer, Swinburne University of Technology

Dr Muneera Bano has over a decade of experience in academic teaching, research,supervision, and leadership with demonstrated ability to work both independently and as an integral part of a team. She is an academic and researcher at the Swinburne University of Technology. Previously, Muneera worked as a Post-doctoral researcher and ‘Learning and Teaching Adjunct’ at University of Technology Sydney and graduated from the same university in 2015 with a PhD in Software Engineering.

Muneera works at the intersection between computers and humans – looking for ways to engineer technology to work better with the people who use it. Muneera specialises in the field of socio-technical domains of software engineering focusing on human-centred technologies. Her recent research areas include: technology-assisted pedagogies for education, and social media analysis.

She contributes to the broader research community as Associate Editor of the Institution of Engineering and Technology Software Journal, as Track Chair in International Requirements Engineering, and Australian Software Engineering Conferences; and as a member of the program committee for various highly-ranked conferences including the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computer Science. During her research career, Muneera has also received prestigious recognition for her work, including being named asa finalist for Google Australia’s Anita Borg Award for Women in Computer Science, AsiaPacific 2015. She was also the recipient of Schlumberger’s Award for Women in STEM (2014 and 2015) and was given the ‘distinguished research paper award’ at International Requirements Engineering Conference held in August 2018. She has been a been announced as a Superstar of STEM for 2019-2020 by Science Technology Australia.

Arts, Culture & Sport

Category Winner
Benjamin Law

Benjamin Law is an author and journalist. He writes books, TV screenplays, columns, essays, stage plays and feature journalism. He’s the author of the memoir The Family Law (2010), the travel book Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East (2012)—both nominated for Australian Book Industry Awards—the Quarterly Essay Moral Panic 101 (2017) and he edited the anthology Growing Up Queer in Australia (2019).The Family Law was adapted into three seasons of an SBS TV series, which Benjamin created and co-wrote. The TV series represented the first ever Australian TV show with an Asian-Australian family at its centre, showcased a 90 per cent core cast across three seasons and has sold in over 70 territories worldwide.

Benjamin has also written for over 50 publications in Australia and beyond— including the Monthly, Frankie, Good Weekend, the Guardian, the Australian, Monocle and the Australian Financial Review—and has a PhD in creative writing from Queensland University of Technology. He also co-wrote the comedy book Shit Asian Mothers Say(2014) with his sister Michelle, and the sex/relationships advice book Law School (2017)with his mum Jenny. He is now working on a play for the Melbourne Theatre Company,featuring a 100 per cent Asian-Australian cast.

Every week, Benjamin co-hosts ABC Radio National’s weekly national pop culture show Stop Everything. He also co-hosts online startup and tech TV show That Startup Show (Amazon Prime, Virgin Australia), and has appeared on TV shows including A (ABC), The Drum (ABC), The Project (Ten) and Filthy Rich and Homeless (SBS). More recently, this year, Benjamin hosted a major two-part ABC TV feature documentary, Waltzing the Dragon, which explored and showcased the 200-plus year history of the Chinese in Australia.

40 Under 40 – Arts, Culture & Sport
Marc Fennell

Journalist & Interviewer, SBS, ABC & Audible
Walter Lee
General Manager, Strategy Australian Football League

Leah Jing McIntosh
Editor, LIMINAL magazine

Chris Pang
Eminent Actor/Producer, Empty by Design, Crazy Rich Asians,Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny,Tomorrow, When the War Began

Pallavi Sharda
Eminent Actress, Les Norton, Tom and Jerry, Lion, Besharam,
Beecham House, Hawaizaada

Community & Advocacy

Category Winner
Khunapong Khunaraksa
Board Member/Founder & Chief Executive Officer,
Gravity Water/Khunapong Consulting

Khunapong Khunaraksa is a Water Leader, Asia Pacific Expert, and International Storyteller. He is on a mission to help all Southeast Asians have access to clean water. His unique work experience in Australia, the United States, and seven Asian countries puts him in a unique position to strengthen Asian-Australian engagement.

Khunapong is currently serving as a board member with Gravity Water, a Not for Profit organisation to help increase drinkable water access for children in Asia. He is also a leading clean water consultant, helping global water startups expand across Southeast Asia.

Khunapong’s water journey started over a decade ago when he completed his master’s degree in Water Engineering at the University of New South Wales, Australia. His passion for the Asia Pacific Region stems from his childhood upbringing in Sydney and Bangkok. Previously, Khunapong was a Southeast Asia Portfolio Manager for Water.org, a 2019 global award-winning not-for-profit organisation that works to increase access to clean water and sanitation via innovative financial approaches, including small loans. Khunapong led the development of Water.org’s first-ever water utility program. Over 300,000 Cambodians, Indonesians, and Filipinos have been empowered with access to clean water and toilets through programs he managed.

Prior to Water.org, Khunapong worked for Team Group, a Thai engineering and management consulting outfit. He helped to spearhead the company’s successful expansion into Myanmar. He also worked as an Environmental Scientist for a boutique environmental company in Sydney. He provided consultation services toover 50 Sydney Catholic Primary Schools. Khunapong shares his own stories on stages around the world.

He also interviews global water leaders to gain and share insights with young water professionals. He hopes to equip them with the knowledge to start a water entrepreneurialjourney to solve the world water crisis.

40 Under 40 – Community & Advocacy

Cat Thao Nguyen
Co-Founder & Chairperson, Australia Vietnam Young Leadership Dialogue

Yasmin Poole
Youth Ambassador, Plan International

Alan Wu
Member of the Board, Oxfam Australia

Weh Yeoh
Founder, OIC Cambodia and Co-Founder and CEO, Umbo

Category Winner
Dr Imran Omar Lum
Director, Islamic Finance, National Australia Bank

Dr Imran Omar Lum is a Director of Islamic Finance at the National Australia Bank(NAB). His primary responsibility is building the Islamic finance capability for the bank’s Corporate and Institutional Banking division. At NAB, he successfully developed a Sukuk bond trading platform, an Islamic finance book of ~$800 million and executed ~$250 million of Islamic FX Forwards. All of these offerings are a first for the Australian market and NAB was awarded the Islamic Bank of the Year, Australia by The Asset Magazine’s Triple Islamic Finance Awards in 2019.

Prior to this, Imran was the national Product Manager for NAB’s multi-award-winning Microenterprise Loans and under his management the product was awarded Money Magazine’s Best Socially Responsible Product ’09.

Imran was also appointed by the Australian Foreign Minister to the Board of the AustraliaASEAN Council, DFAT, and he is an Advisory Board Member of the Islamic Museum of Australia. Imran is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society at the Australian Catholic University and is currently writing a book on Islamic Finance in Australia due to be published by Routledge in 2020.

In recognition of his contribution, Imran was ranked in the top 500 who make the Islamic Economy by ISLAMICA 500 for three years (2017-2019). Imran has an undergraduate degree from the University of Adelaide, a Masters in Islamic Studies from the University of New England and a PhD in Islamic Studies from the Melbourne Law School and the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne.

40 Under 40 – Corporate

Queenie Chow
Microinsurance Center @ Milliman Consulting, Association of Australian Actuaries

Matthew Park
Vice President, Communications and Media, Oil Search

Adriana Saw
Assurance Chapter Lead –
Deposits & Wealth, Australia & New Zealand Bank Group

Shuyin Tang
Partner, Patamar Capital

Category Winner
Eddie Woo
Mathematics Teacher, Author & Communicator,
NSW Department of Education

Eddie’s work in schools and throughout broader society is breaking the misconception that mathematics is inaccessible and unimportant. The success of his YouTube channel,which has more than 600,000 subscribers worldwide and over 36 million views, hasserved to improve the learning of mathematics for students, their schools and their parents. His book, Woo’s Wonderful World of Maths, and his ABC children’s TV series, Teenage Boss, each have mainstream appeal and have encouraged positive attitudes toward mathematics throughout Australia and beyond.

Eddie has received a number of honours and awards, including: 2015 NSW Premier’s Prize for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education; 2016 AMSI Teacher Excellence Award; 2017 Sydney University Outstanding Young Alumni Award; 2018 Australia’s Local Hero (Australian of the Year Awards); 2018 Global Teacher Prize Top 10 Finalist; 2019 Western Sydney University Honorary Fellowship.

40 Under 40 – Education

Huong Le Thu
Senior Analyst, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Shivali Nayak
Shivali Nayak
Senior Content Producer, Learn English, Australian Broadcasting Corporation International

Mimi Zhou
Fellow in Chinese Commercial Law, Oxford University

Category Winner
Tim Fung
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Airtasker

Tim Fung is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Airtasker, founded in 2012. Airtasker is a services marketplace enabling individuals to outsource chores and errands. Prior to starting Airtasker, Tim was a founding team member and investor in mobile startup amaysim, playing a key role in strategy and capital aising. He is a founder and director of several web startups, including online custom shirt design business Joe Button, and motorsport event management group Circuit Club.

Tim is also a founder and director of Tank Stream Labs – a co-working space and entrepreneurial community located in the heart of Sydney CBD. Tim has worked as a consulting talent agent at Chic Management and before this, spent five years as an investment banking executive at Macquarie Bank.

He is also a mentor at Founders Institute Sydney and was named in SmartCompany’s Hot 30 Entrepreneurs under 30 and Shoe String Startup’s young and Influential List in 2012.Tim has a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of New South Wales and was a recipient of the 2016 UNSW Young Alumni award.

40 Under 40 – Entrepreneurship

Fung Lam
Co-Founder and Director, New Aim

Sarah Liu
Founder and Managing Director, The Dream Collective

Zion Ong
Director and Co-Founder, Alyka

William Taing
Co-Founder and Director, Beanstalk AgTech

Science & Medicine
Category Winner
Dr Meru Sheel
Westpac Research Fellow, Australian National University

Dr Meru Sheel is a senior research fellow in global health, providing sustainable leadership to improve health outcomes for marginalised populations. She earned a PhD in 2010 followed by a Master of Philosophy in Applied Epidemiology in 2018, specialising in prevention and control of infectious diseases. During her PhD, Meru was awarded the QUT International Doctoral Scholarship and the Research Capacity Building Award.

With 14 years of cross-disciplinary infectious diseases expertise, Meru has worked in complex environments in Australia, Fiji, American Samoa, Dominica, Samoa and Bangladesh. In 2018, she led a team of public health professionals in response to the highly infectious diphtheria outbreak among the Rohingya refugees living in the world’s largest refugee camp, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

In March 2019, Dr Sheel’s leadership potential in health research was recognised when she was awarded the prestigious Westpac Research Fellowship valued at over AUD500,00 over three years, to design and lead independent research in health security in the AsiaPacific region.

Meru is a change-maker and strong advocate for equity and diversity in the workplace,encouraging women and young professionals to take up leadership positions. meru mentors early career researchers nationally and internationally in research methods and empowerment-based leadership for STEM careers. She regularly engages with the community through media outlets, non-scientific writing and community events to increase awareness on public health issues facing the marginalised populations of the world.

40 Under 40 - Science & Medicine

Dr Zhaojun Han
Senior Lecturer and Senior Research Scientist and Co-Founder,
CSIRO and University of New South Wales Joint Lab

Dr Jagnoor Jagnoor
Senior Research Fellow and Head of Injury Division,
The George Institute for Global Health

Dr Rebecca Lim
Scientific Director, Monash Health Translation Precinct,
Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Dr Chengxue Helena Qin
Group Leader & Baker Fellow, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute

Category Winner
Astrid Haban-Beer
Barrister, Victorian Bar

Astrid Haban-Beer has a broad practice incorporating commercial law, public and government law, and criminal law matters. Astrid has always sought to promote human rights through practical advocacy. She has appeared in many significant matters as a barrister including representing the State of Victoria in the Child Abuse Royal Commission as junior counsel and appearing in criminal jury trials both as a prosecutor and as defense counsel.

Astrid has appeared as counsel in trials covering a diverse range of criminal matters covering complex historical sexual assaults involving children, drug importation and trafficking offences, customs, tobacco and firearms matters, as well as terrorism, public interest immunity and national security matters.

Astrid is privileged to appear for parties in challenging matters involving mental impairment and disability law. Astrid has a commitment to pro bono practice, including representing clients in consumer law and criminal matters, and also sat on the board of the St Kilda Legal Service for several years until 2018.

Further and importantly, Astrid has a special interest in criminal matters in The Philippines, including in cases where Australians have been detained. Astrid has been constant advocate for the progress of women in the legal profession, particularly culturally and linguistically diverse women. Astrid has occupied many board and committee roles striving for gender equality and diversity in the profession over the past decade. Notably, Astrid was Convenor of the Victorian Women Lawyers Association in 2010-2011 and is the current Treasurer of Australian Women Lawyers. Astrid is also the Vice-Chair of the Victorian Bar's Equality and Diversity Committee.

40 Under 40 - Professions

Jehan Kanga
Deep Tech Lead – High Growth Ventures, KPMG

Sue Ann Khoo
Director, Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills

Kenneth Hong
Principal, H&H Lawyers

Sek-Loong Tan
Partner, Boston Consulting Group

Public Sector / Government
Category Winner
Philip Le Liu
Councillor, City of Melbourne

After five years at professional service firm EY, Philip Le Liu took up the role of General Manager, China of Australia China Youth Association based in Beijing. During his time at ACYA, Philip secured new sources of funding, expanded chapters in China, increased membership and mentored future executives.

Philip was a candidate in the 2016 federal election and achieved the seventh highest swing in the country among all candidates within his party. During the election, he was applauded for taking a stance by going against the party’s internal advice and using the name he arrived as a migrant to encourage future candidates to embrace their heritage.

Philip was elected to the City of Melbourne Council in late 2016. As chair of International Engagement at City of Melbourne Council, Philip has focused on driving policies and initiatives with great success including advocating for international students.

Philip also helped implement the G-Step program where international students are linked with startups to provide career readiness and solving the resource shortage in the startup ecosystem. The program was later used as a case study presented to Minister Coleman to advocate the removal of working restrictions on international student’s visas for startups. Philip is regularly asked to speak on key issues in the media, especially around Australia and China. He has appeared at numerous events and panels as a subject matter expert (most recent at ACETIE 2019) and is a trusted adviser to many in the business and government sector. In 2018, Philip was selected to participate in the Cranlana Program 2018 Executive Colloquium for leadership and decision making. He was the only person in the class with an Asian background and the youngest.

Philip is an Alumnus of Monash University and was awarded membership to the Golden Key Society for high achieving students.

40 Under 40 - Public Sector / Government

Helen Dai
Director Office of Deputy CEO Austrad

Yen Tan
Regional Director (Hong Kong, Macau and South China),
Trade & Investment Northern Ireland, The British Consulate-General Hong Kong

Andrew Wan
Chief Information Security Officer, The Smith Family