By Dr Moni Storz
This is our first editorial to greet the millenium, 2000. As Confucian Chinese, it is appropriate therefore to remember the past in order to begin the new century. Once upon a time, on a warm summer day in June 1989, the city of Beijing was splattered with blood. In that momentous few hours as Chinese students, intellectuals, poets and ordinary people were mowed down with guns and tanks, we in Australia stood by helpless. Soon after that fateful event, they started to trickle, then to pour into Australia, the Chinese who managed to escape. Their stories were chillingly familiar in the decades of the 20th century: tyranny, bloodshed, exile, re-construction of lives lost somewhere between the cracks of ideological differences. As I listened to their stories, the need to do something was most urgent.
I began classes in English using Accelerated techniques to teach these Chinese refugees how to speak Aussie/English fast so they could take jobs appropriate to their training. Many were scholars, doctors, engineers and teachers. But their English skills equipped them only for factories and restaurants in Melbourne. It was my job as a first year Sociology subject co-ordinator that led me to Luo Jian Guo (James). He came to us at Monash as a PhD student, a modern Confucianist gentleman and scholar. A bi-lingual translator and interpreter, a journalist and a scholar holding post graduate degrees in his chosen field, he was working part-time in a factory. Jian-gou's real story is for another time and for him to tell. Not me.
To continue with my story, he came to help me teach English in a small room tucked away in Flinders Lane courtesy of my Chinese guanxi. Together we worked to accelerate the students' English skills and in doing so, I had a brainwave: why not teach Chinese to Australians using the same methodology and rescue Jian-guo from the mind deadening and body-killing work he was doing in a factory in Melbourne. More to the point, he could actually say he had a full time job so that he could apply for permanent residency in Australia. The rest as they say is history.
ACCS was born out of a need and in the first class we ran, twenty nine people turned up: amongst them a journalist from the Age, and a well known university professor who specialised in dinosaurs: Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich. Jian-guo became the first academic director of our Centre and six months later, left to take up a position in RMIT as a communications lecturer. At the end of the year, the Australian government granted permanent residencies to all Chinese who ecaped the Tiananmen massacre. I wanted to close down the Centre as I was still teaching full time at Monash. Even before I could say zaijian, another Chinese turned up at my doorstep, an ex-anchor man in Beijing television who was seen to be sympathetic to the students at the Tiananmen square.
An actor and film director, Jin Yi became an odd jobs man in Melbourne, climbing under houses to drag out dirt, washing dishes, anything that would earn him some money. He taught with our Centre for many years and occasionally fell asleep in class through sheer fatigue. His real story? I hope he will tell it one day. Story-ing an event gives it its soul. Story -ing cleanses and heals us so we can begin again. And again. That is why story telling is universal and everyone loves a story.
Today in the new millenium, our ACCS stands proudly alone without government grants, subsidies and all the concessions that go together with a non-profit organisation. ACCS' spirit is communal and its success is due largely to people who work behind the scenes for the occasional meal and a smile or yell from me as well as our loyal students who continue to re-enrol each semester in spite of poor heating and ghastly parking problems. I tell our story but the players are many: Jeff, who can never understand why he is working so hard for peanuts (as the Monkey God's adopted son, he should consider himself well fed), Shirley Lo, our quiet achiever behind the scene and who does not get paid. She slaves each Term to get the newsletter out in time and our Lingsea whose Chinese soul is so pure that she cannot leave our Centre for fear she does not fulfill the rite of obligation and duty. And me? Why do I do it? Sometimes, there are greater things than just money, fame and praise. It is part of being human.
This is our story and we have played and worked with great joy and deep love and will continue to do so to bring Chinese language and studies to the Australian community using Accelerated Learning principles.