7 May 2008

TRIBUTE - Henry Chan (by Jacqueline Lo, on behalf of AASRN)

Tribute to Henry Chan

By Jacquie Lo on behalf of the AASRN

It is with sadness that we mark the passing of Henry Chan, a great historian and supporter of Asian Australian Studies. Henry passed away peacefully at home in the Blue Mountains , NSW, on 11 April 2008. Right to the end, he remained an active and highly productive scholar, public intellectual, community leader and mentor to many of us in the Asian Australian and New Zealand community.

I first met Henry in 1993 when we were both teaching at the University of Newcastle and served on the Equal Opportunity and Diversity Board (I think we were the ‘diversity’ component!). He was a great role model – he taught us ‘young pups’ much about collegiality, intellectual generosity and social responsibility. By the time Hansonite politics came into prominence and Asian Australian Studies started to take shape in the late 1990s, Henry had retired from teaching. He did not rest on his many laurels, however, but instead almost single-handedly inspired many in the Asian, and especially Chinese, communities in Australia and New Zealand to research and record their family history. He worked tirelessly with community organisations to run workshops and seminars, and played a pivotal role in connecting community research to the academy through his vast network of contacts. Many will testify to the infectious nature of Henry’s enthusiasm and energy for Chinese history. He always maintained that Chinese Australian history was part of the fabric of Australian history, and that we need to (re)claim this history as part of our Australian identity.

Henry attended the launch of the first Asian Australian Studies collection of essays, Diaspora: Negotiating Asian Australia in Sydney in 2000, and remained a friend and supporter of the AASRN over the years. He will be greatly missed. He leaves an intellectual and political legacy that remains foundational to our collective endeavour.