Australian-born Masterchef star Melissa Leong has urged Aussies to keep fighting against racism and working towards “positive change” after the Immigration Minister singled out her success story as an example of why the vast majority of Australians are not prejudiced.
Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has named Australian-born MasterChef judge Melissa Leong as his best example of why Australia is not racist because she’s “Chinese” and “hugely popular”.
Despite the fact that the star of the new MasterChef program was born in Sydney nearly 40 years ago, Mr Tudge has insisted she’s an example of why 99.9 per cent of Australians abhor racism.
Ms Leong, 38, was born to Singaporean parents with a Chinese background and has spoken out repeatedly about “casual racism” and racist trolls that attacked her after she first joined the program.
While a spokesman said she was “fine” with being described by Mr Tudge as ethnically Chinese despite being born in Sydney, she warned Australia had a long way to go.
“While I am proud to play a small part in the changing face of diversity and inclusivity in Australian media, let me be clear in saying that we are so very far from where we need to be,’’ Ms Leong told news.com.au.
“Whether it’s our ancient indigenous heritage or more recent multicultural contribution, representation of the different abled, or those who are fighting to be accepted for how they identify, or loving who they love, it is clear that we all need and deserve to feel seen and be heard. It is my hope in these difficult times that we can and will bring about lasting and positive change in this regard.”
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Hailing the groundbreaking program for showcasing Australians from diverse backgrounds, Mr Tudge said it was another reason why recent warnings from China about tourists and students travelling to Australia were overblown.
“We live in the most successful multicultural country in the world, here in Australia,’’ he said.
“Even when you look at pop culture, some of the most successful and popular people have got a diverse background, such as on MasterChef at the moment, which is the most popular TV show.
“One of the judges is Chinese, er, has ethnic Chinese background, and many of the contestants who are hugely popular. This is an indication to me of what Australia is, where we treat people as individuals, we accept them for who they are. That’s the way I hope that Australia will always be.”
Labor Senator Penny Wong challenged Mr Tudge’s comments.
“We all love MasterChef but I hope Alan can appreciate Asian Australians for more than our cooking.”
Ms Leong herself has spoken out about the racism she has experienced in Australia.
“I grew up in an Australia that didn’t look like me – in many ways, Australia didn’t look like me. Growing up, I watched Lee Lin Chin and Elizabeth Chong on TV – and they continue to be heroes for me – because I remember seeing them as a kid and thinking, ‘I look like that, maybe I could be on TV if that’s what I want to do for work,’” she said.