Tan Le

Young Australian of the Year 1998

Described as courageous, determined and intelligent, Tan Le came to Australia from Vietnam in 1982 as a four year old with her family. Along with the thousands of Vietnamese who came to Australia as refugees in the 1970s and early 80s Tan Le faced many hurdles.

Le’s family lived in Footscray, Melbourne and Tan tackled the English language with the same determination that she would draw upon to overcome a range of obstacles. Tan always believed in helping others, particularly those who had also fled Vietnam. This sense of community spirit has been a continuing part of her life.

During her time at Secondary school Tan experienced first hand the challenges of racism and her courage and determination enabled her to turn this experience into positive action.

At only 15, Tan began her double degree in Law and Commerce at Monash University. She received a KPMG scholarship for academic achievement. At the same time Tan focused on the needs of her community, demonstrating an empathy with people who were unemployed in the refugee community. She devoted herself to helping by joining the Australian Vietnamese Services Resource Centre. Within three years, Tan was made president. Tan initiated new training programs including counselling opportunities for Vietnamese women.

Tan’s goal was to build bridges between the Vietnamese community and the wider Australian community. Through the organisation of community and charity events she succeeded in making the VCFA (Vietnamese Community of Footscray Association) one of the most effective ethnic support organisations in Australia. Tan’s efforts were acknowledged when in 1998 she was awarded Young Australian of the Year. She was also appointed as an Australian Youth Ambassador to Asia and voted one of Australia’s 30 Most Successful Women Under 30.

Tan is now a qualified solicitor and barrister. In 2000 she co-founded SASme – a wireless technology company. This is now one of the leading wireless technology providers in Australia. Tan is still working to help others in the community. She praises Australian society for providing her with the opportunities to pursue her dreams.

She has been appointed to a number of prominent positions including:

  • Australian Citizenship Council
  • National Committee for Human Rights
  • Education Australia
  • RMIT Business in Entrepreneurship
  • Ambassador for the Status of Women
  • Ambassador for Aboriginal Reconciliation


Theme: Migration and refugees