Sabah-Born Aussie Minister Is Looking Forward To Her Nostalgic 'Homecoming'
Penelope Ying-Yen Wong, who is better known as Penny Wong, is looking forward to her nostalgic visit to Malaysia on Tuesday, 28 June.
Born in Sabah, Penny is Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs.
While the visit is part of her diplomatic tour of Southeast Asia as the Minister for Foreign Affairs to reaffirm Australia's commitment as a strategic partner to the region and to discuss economic recovery, climate action, education ties, and health security, the 53-yer-old is also looking forward to visiting her hometown.
"I will also travel to Sabah [..] it's the region where I am from. Having spent my early years in Kota Kinabalu, I look forward to the great honour of returning to the city as Australia's Foreign Minister," Penny said in a statement posted yesterday, 25 June on the official website of Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs.
As part of her official visit, she will meet her counterpart Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, and International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.
Following which, the first female openly-LGBTI Australian federal parliamentarian will make a quick overnight stop in Kota Kinabalu, where her family members are looking forward to a small gathering.
Penny, who was a Malaysian citizen till the age of 33, moved to Australia at the age of eight with her mother and younger brother
She was born to a Malaysian Chinese father and an Australian mother.
Her parents were Jane (née Chapman), an English Australian woman, and Francis Wong, a Malaysian Chinese man of Hakka origin. They separated when Penny was eight-year-old.
Her younger brother, 35-year-old James Wong, who stays in Sabah, told The Star that they are scheduling a late supper for a small family get-together after Penny finishes her official events on Wednesday.
According to James, Penny told him that she would like to visit their paternal grandmother Lai Fung Shim's grave in Kota Kinabalu and go out for a bowl of her favourite porridge in town.
"Penny also wants to visit her old school, Kinabalu International School and hawkers in the Lido area," James said, adding that the family is really excited about her visit back home as a Foreign Affairs Minister.
"We are so proud of her and we know many Sabahans are too," he said, adding that Penny's simple Sabah roots and political achievements in Australia were an inspiration to many Sabahans.
Penny became the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 23 May 2022 after her Australian Labor Party defeated the Liberal Party of Australia. Penny has been described as "a serious person in serious times".
According to Penny, Sabah has longstanding ties to Australia.
"It's more than geography that binds us — we have genuine links in Vietnam and Malaysia: family, business, education, and tourism," she said, adding that her visit seeks to deepen these ties.
She is the eldest in a family of seven siblings
Penny is one of two children from the first marriage between Francis and his Australian wife.
The remaining five, including James, are from Francis' second marriage.
James said that Penny has been very much part of the Wong family as they all grew up together and have spent a lot of time together, be it in Sabah or Australia.
Recalling a previous visit of Penny during her stint as Finance Minister under Julia Gillard's premiership, James said that they were quietly hanging out in Kuala Lumpur when the Malaysian government became aware of her presence, and almost immediately there was security put around the hotel.
"We just had a good laugh when it happened," James added.
Penny is not the only Malaysian to make it big in Australia.
Sam Lim, who was born in Johor in 1961 and migrated to Australia in 2002, is a member of parliament for Tangney in Perth: