Helene Chung is a pioneer journalist who broke racist and sexist barriers to become the first non-white reporter on Australian television and, as Beijing correspondent, the first female posted abroad by the ABC. The Hobart-born Chinese Australian is author of Shouting from China, Gentle John My Love My Loss, Lazy Man in China and Ching Chong China Girl: From Fruitshop to Foreign Correspondent. An honours graduate with a Master of Arts in history from the University of Tasmania, she has reported from Australia, Hong Kong, Britain, Egypt and China and freelanced for BBC, CBS, NPR, NZBC and Hong Kong radio.
Chinese Australian-born journalist Helene Chung (He-LANE CHUNG as in HUNG), who grew up in an unconventional family in 1950s Anglo-Celtic Hobart, led the way to a new egalitarian Australia as its first non-white television reporter and, as Beijing correspondent, the first female posted abroad by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
A fourth-generation Tasmanian, whose maternal great grand-father landed as a tin miner in the 1880s, she is the author of Shouting from China, Gentle John: My Love My Loss, Lazy Man in China and Ching Chong China Girl: From fruitshop to foreign correspondent. An Honours graduate and Master of Arts in history of the University of Tasmania, she has reported from Australia, Hong Kong, Britain, Egypt and China and freelanced for BBC, BFBS, CBS, NPR, NZBC and Hong Kong radio.
She and her sister were the only Ching Chong Chinamen at St Mary’s College. They alone were shamed by a divorced mother, an artist’s model who lived in sin and drove a red MG.
Helene survived the embarrassment of childhood, discovered the thrill of student theatre and fell into journalism from the back of a Tasmanian tiger. In 1968 while still at university her first interview - with a butcher who claimed to have sighted the extinct animal – was broadcast on ABC radio's national flagship, AM.
Rejected as a trainee: 'You’re only going to get married and all the training would be wasted', she freelanced overseas and scooped the first radio interview granted by Princess Anne.
She joined ABC Sydney’s AM/PM team before Tasmania’s This Day Tonight lured her in late 1974, when she became the first non-white reporter on the Australian screen. Her interview with former classmate, mainland history lecturer John Martin, triggered a transfer to Melbourne and their life-long love.
When the ABC posted a female abroad for the first time, John no more wanted to accompany Helene to China than to Afghanistan yet reluctantly agreed. His witty letters from Beijing would be incorporated into Lazy Man in China.
Shouting from China recalls the shouting that often cost Helene her voice as she filed for three years over a dilapidated telephone line. She wrote the book as Edward Wilson Fellow in Journalism at Deakin University, Geelong, where she would teach journalism while specialising in North Asian affairs at the Overseas Service, Radio Australia, Melbourne. She also presented the daily International Report on Radio National.
John's death through cancer led to her emotional outpouring in Gentle John My Love My Loss. Her sister, Lehene’s death, also through cancer, would deepen Helene’s understanding of love, loss and grief.
When the Howard government's axe fell on Radio Australia, Helene began fifteen years as an adjunct research fellow at Monash Asia Institute, Melbourne, which assisted her autobiography, Ching Chong China Girl: From Fruitshop to Foreign Correspondent.
Helene tailors each presentation or her role as interviewer or master of ceremonies to individual requirements.
Helene Chung is a confident, precise and captivating public communicator. All the years in radio and television have invested her with real charm and persuasiveness... She confirmed this during a panel discussion I chaired on the experience of ABC correspondents in Beijing.
Former Foreign Minister, Professor the Honourable Bob Carr
Helene speaks as she writes – with crystal clarity, sensitivity to her audience, a firm grasp of her subject, and always a touch of humour.
Professor John Fitzgerald, Director, Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Impact & Philanthropy, Swinburne Business School, Former Head of Ford Foundation, Beijing, Former Founding Professor of Asian Studies, La Trobe University
A cracker-jack presentation - a perfect blend of history and autobiography.
Professor Emeritus Michael Roe, University of Tasmania historian on Helene’s International Women’s Day Address 2015
A thoughtful, candid and inspiring talk. A magnificent and articulate woman willing to share the personal.
Hazel Edwards Author on Helene’s International Women’s Day Address 2015
With China emerging as a world power, Ms Chung's detailed knowledge of the country, its politics and its people comes across in her articulate and amusing presentation, during which she engages with her audience in a relaxed and informal way. I have not heard better in the 25 years that I was based in Asia.
John W Downer, AM, Former Group Chairman, Maunsell International Consulting Engineers
Your presentation was so interesting, very topical, very entertaining and well presented. You were very relaxed and responded well to our audience and their questions. We had fabulous feedback from our clients who thoroughly enjoyed your presentation.
Margaret Parker FCA, Director Hayes Knight Melbourne
A provocative, stirring and pertinent story. Interesting and engaging, especially for students who may not be so aware of the level of prejudice that migrants encounter.
Joan Gill, Head of Senior School, Welfare, The Geelong College
A thoroughly professional presentation … I wish the lessons I sat through at school on modern Chinese history had been half as interesting and engaging.
John Crone, Former China Head, Radio Australia
Lazy Man in China is a China book you read through in one go... a very intimate China reportage that is personal and conversational... a wistful love story... value for those who study China, or who just want to know.
Dr Stephen FitzGerald, AO, Australia's first Ambassador to the People's Republic of China
Ching Chong China Girl: From fruitshop to foreign correspondent is the story of how this Australian-born Chinese Catholic school girl became, in many ways, emblematic of the changing nature of Australia ... the spirit, energy and clear-sighted intelligence that eventually took her to journalism ... and on to such iconic programs as This Day Tonight, then to become the ABCs correspondent in Beijing, shine through in this engaging memoir ... conversational, often wry and humorous.
Steven Carroll Author and Critic, The Age