Turning 30

After 14.5 years in China and 15.5 years in Australia, I am truly a product of mixed cultural influences. On the eve of my 30th birthday, I look back at my achievements and regrets.


  • Survived a childhood without my mum, who left me for Australia when I was 4.
  • Safely made a solo return trip from China to Australia when I was 9.
  • Moved to Australia when I was 14 and survived the first six months of school subject to bully and language barriers.
  • Graduated from high school with an UAI of 99.3 and became an unlikely dux.
  • Managed to finish an actuarial degree and an economics degree.
  • Moved to Canberra alone and made a few good friends.
  • Got driver’s licence after two years of classes.
  • Landed a job where my skills can be utilised.
  • Taught myself how to ride a bike.
  • Learned to swim.
  • Learned to camp.
  • Found love.
  • Found passion.
  • Founded a charity.
  • Lots of travel.
  • Been to Tibet.
  • Adopted a rescue dog.


  • Not taking a gap year.
  • Chose a career based on UAI and expected future salary.
  • Gave up piano after just two years.
  • Being anti-social in university.
  • Spent my hard earned cash on fast fashion.
  • Not spending more time with my grandparents before they passed away.

On the eve of turning 30, I am content. I have a good job, nice colleagues, a loving partner, healthy parents, a cute dog, an upcoming European trip, a growing charity and a number of supporters. Most of these were not imaginable three years ago.

My biggest wish for the next decade is to grow Oz Fair Trade and to convince more people to choose fair trade.

I am outraged.

Australian Post is cutting 900 jobs while paying its boss $4.8 million salary. Is this fair? I don’t think so. For the life of me, I simply cannot understand why the executives of big companies are paid millions in salary every year. In this case, Ahmed Fahour (the head of AusPost) is paid more than the bosses of Woolworths, Fairfax, David Jones etc. When compared to his international peers, the difference is more remarkable. Ahmed is paid more than 10 times what his US counterpart is paid.

“Fahour’s salary isn’t merely high, it’s completely off the scale.”

According to the Australian Council of Trade Unions,

“The average total remuneration of a chief executive of a top 50 company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in 2010 is $6.4 million – or almost 100 times that of the average worker.”

I am outraged. 

Are women more ethical than men?

This question could open a can of worms, and it would certainly take far more than 1,000 words to have any reasonable discussion on this topic. For this reason, I’d like to concentrate on just one area of ethics: ethical shopping.

I made an interesting observation recently that over 90% of my customers and Facebook followers are females. Whenever I visit an Oxfam shop, most shoppers are females. Where are the males? Could it possibly be our fault, that there’s simply not enough ethically produced products that appeal to our male counterparts? Or are women simply more ethical than men?

In Australia, Etiko and Eternal Creation have a limited selection of clothing and accessories for men. There are far more choices in the UK, then again over 90% of UK population recognises Fairtrade label, compared to just over 50% in Australia (according to Fairtrade Australia). I don’t know what’s the gender split of customers for these two businesses, but they certainly have far more female products than male products. Since they’ve been in business for a long time, I think we can reasonably assume that the demand for female fair trade products are far greater than those for male fair trade products.

Maybe it’s because women spend money on clothing and accessories while men spend money on gadgets and games?

While ethical fashion and fair trade are well known, ethical gadgets are less heard of. Fairphone, the world’s first ethical smartphone, is probably the only fair trade gadget that I have heard of. The Electronics Industry Trends report, released on Wednesday by Baptist World Aid, found that 97% of companies failed to pay factory workers enough to meet their basic needs.

If our male counterparts are really concerned about whether the people who made their gadgets are fairly paid, then they should demand change from the large companies, and more smaller players like Fairphone would see a market for their products. The lack of such development is a sign that businesses are not yet convinced of the size of this market, which in turn suggests that men might care more about functionality, brand and price than ethics behind the production of products.

I hope I am seeing the beginning of a movement. It took more than 50 years for fair trade to lose the “pity product” image. I hope the journey for ethical electronics will be an easier one. Perhaps we can play a bigger role in this movement, not only as consumers of electronic goods, but also as partners and friends who can educate and influence the purchase decisions of men. According to Money Smart Australia, we spent $9.5 billion a year on gadgets vs $5.1 billion a year on fashion. If we can push forward an ethical electronics movement, then many workers in the developing world will benefit.

p.s. we currently have a small range of fair trade products for men, and we will expand this product range in the near future to include clothing and accessories. Please click here.

the June Fourth Incident

It is approaching this time of the year again. On 4 June 1989, I was almost 5 years old and living in Shanghai, totally oblivious to what was happening in Beijing at the time. I would remain oblivious for another 15 years. It was not until I moved to Australia that this important chapter of history was told to me by some stranger on the street. As it turned out, all my parents’ generation knew about it, but nobody ever mentioned a word during my upbringing. This fact alone fascinates me.

So what happened? If you don’t yet know about the June Fourth Incident, I highly recommended this website built by SBS to tell both sides of the story. As a Chinese Australian who have spent more years in Australia than in China, and as a tourist who have been to many parts of China including Tibet, my views are influenced by both Chinese and western media. I support independence of Tibet. I support truth and justice. I support democracy.

My father recently moved to Australia. When I talked to him about the June Fourth Incident, he was eager to learn as much as he could. He told me that there was very limited information available to citizens at the time, and with hindsight he could see that they were censored and biased information. I asked him why it was not covered in my history classes, but he couldn’t give an answer. I later learned that many Chinese temporary migrants were granted permanent residency to Australia following the incident, including my mother. So in a way, the June Fourth Incident had a profound impact on my life too.

I often feel extremely lucky to live in Australia, where freedom of speech and human rights are respected, and democracy is seen as a fundamental human right. My father’s generation argue that democracy would not work in a large country like China. Look what happened in India, they would say. I agree to some degree that having only one party has helped China to prosper economically, but I don’t see it as a long term solution. People will rise, and people will always win.