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Guest Opinion: What is the history of the Australian Malaysian Singaporean Association?

Updated on 17th May 2023:

Here is the history of AMSA as remembered by Dr Anthony Pun OAM

Advocacy/Commentator Public Policies & Geopolitics

Historical Background

Historically, the Malaysian Singaporean Students Association (MSSA) was the root organization that developed into the Australian Malaysian Singaporean Association Inc. (AMSA). At that time, the; leadership went to Ms Shen Mao, a student at the UNSW. They were several activists in the group, and they used to congregate at Meek Street, Kingsford and they were students at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), specialising mid-night mahjong sessions during the weekend.

At that time, a newsletter was published under the editorship of the late Mr Jimmy Kok Yuen Sen (Malaysia), a Colombo Plan scholar (with 8As in Senior Cambridge) who graduated in 1969 as a Food Technologist (Hons) at UNSW. The author used to drive up to Parramatta with Jim in his old VW to pick up the magazine for distribution. ‘
AMSA's History: first Malaysian Singaporean student activity in Sydney.
This is the first Malaysian Singaporean student activity in Sydney.
The delegation led by Dr Shen Mao to visit Chief Commissioner Vernon Trent took place in Winter at the Sydney Town Hall. Most of the students were from the UNSW and only 3 remained in Sydney after graduation (Dr Anthony Pun, KC Fu and Dr CK Wong, to the left of Dr Shen). After the visit, Commissioner Trent gave each delegate a free pass to the finals of the NSW Football League which was won by South Sydney Juniors in 1968. This was the first taste of the great Australia culture, the football. Ms Shen Mao, after graduation, returned to Singapore to take up a teaching post at Nanyang University in Singapore.

The second highlight was to arrange for the Malaysian High Commission to brief us on the May 13th 1969 incident in Malaysia. The next development was the formalising the MSSA, officially combining both student groups from Malaysia and Singapore in around 1970.

In 1974, MSSA changed its name to Malaysian Singapore Association (MSA) when the student organization evolved into a community organization with more family migration from Singapore and Malaysia joining in.

Under the leadership of Dr Kit Sun Lau (affectionately known as KS – medical practice at Macquarie Street, Sydney) in the late 1980s, MSA flourished.

In the early 1980s, many community organisations started to add a prefix “Australian” in their organisation’s name to show that they were loyal Australians. Hence, in 1990, the organization again changed its name to Australian Malaysian Singaporean Association (AMSA) to reflect the sentiments of the day.

The Dilemma

In the 1980s and beyond, many Malaysian & Singapore residents of Chinese descent joined the Australian Chinese Community Association (ACCA) and later the Australian Chinese Forum. The Forum later changed its name of Chinese Australian Forum (CAF). These organisations then provided the representation and advocacy for Chinese Australian interests. Hence, AMSA did not developed into a representative body fighting for the rights of the Chinese in Australia nor did AMSA vitalised or championed any issues relating to the country of birth.

Consequently, those Chinese Australians interested in public and social justice issues (including anti-racism) jumped ship to both ACCA and CAF. Consequently, AMSA developed into a community social group whose interests were Singaporean and Malaysian cultures and a yearning for home.

As Singapore and Malaysia were “multi-racial” nations, it was not possible for AMSA to represent only the Australian’s interest of the Chinese and not the Malays or Indians. For the same reason, it was not possible for AMSA to be aligned with other Chinese organisations in Australia. nor to be friendly with the diplomatic staff of the PRC or Taiwan.

At that time, the membership of AMSA was predominantly ethnic Chinese and some Indians and a few Malays. There are many Indian organisations in Australia, and AMSA was not able to represent the interests of the Indian Australians.

With the above circumstances affecting the organization, most Singaporean members joined the Singapore government recognized organization “Temasek” for social and cultural activities and a dialogue with their “home” government.

In contrast, AMSA did not have strong relations with the Malaysian diplomatic staff.

AMSA development continued under the leadership of Frank Keh, Jeffrey Lee, Shirley Ng, Dr Bin Yap, Daniel Kwan, Evelyn Tian, Elvan Tong, Juliana Jamal, Peter Wong, Ooi Hock Lim, Lim Teik Hock, Cheryl Seeto etc.(not in chronological order). With stiff competition from ACCA, CAF and Temasek, AMSA began to evolve from a community social club into a business club and the membership was open to all Australians and took up the multicultural characteristics when Ms Seeto, an ethnic Chinese of PNG background, became the President.

The Future - view point from Dr Anthony Pun

In order to maintain this Malaysian Singaporean flavour, AMSA must maintain ties with the immigrants from Malaysia and Singapore, promote the cultures of both countries and maintain a warm relation with the diplomatic staff of both nations.

Another way to maintain its Singaporean/Malaysian characteristics is to reach out to founding members of MSSA and offer them Life Membership or Hon Life Members.

[Author:] The late Dr Anthony Pun, OAM, founding member of MSSA and a Committee member under Dr KS Lau (MSA). Previous positions: Chair, Multicultural Communities Council of NSW Inc., National President, Chinese Community Council of Australia Inc. and President, Australian Health Reform Association Inc.


17th May 2023: Vale Dr Anthony Pun OAM

The Australian Malaysian Singaporean Association Inc. (AMSA) executive committee is saddened by the passing of Dr. Anthony Pun OAM. Born in Malaysia, Dr Pun moved to Australia in 1964. After gaining a PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of New South Wales, he became chief research scientist at St. Vincent’s Hospital, serving in that role for 19 years.
Dr Pun spent a big part of his life advocating for the multicultural community in Australia. He is someone who would tell it as it is. He founded many organisations to advocate for and empower the multicultural communities in NSW and across the country.

His contribution to the community was recognised by various government and community leaders.
He was actively involved in the Malaysian Singaporean groups in the 1970s and 1980s as he recorded the history of AMSA (formerly Malaysian Singaporean Association MSA) based on his recollections.

We send our condolences to his wife Juliana, sons Leon, Andrew and family.

Rest in Peace, Dr Anthony Pun.


left Dr Anthony Pun (Photo credit: APAC News)
right Dr Anthony Pun (2nd from left) enjoying his last meal at AMSA JOM Makan on 17th May 2023


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