15. Ming Kang Chen

21 Dec

Ming Kang Chen was once a Mayor of Banyule. ‘But he’s so young’ I hear you saying to yourself, and I guess in response I should start by explaining where his journey began.

Ming Kang’s mum stumbled across an advertisement in the Banyule Banner looking for a young person living in Banyule to put themselves forward as a Young Mayor for the 2009 Banyule Youth Express, a Youth Summit otherwise known as the BYE. The role of the Mayor as Ming Kang explains is to help organise the event and assist with the running of the day, a sort of Master of Ceremonies. 2009 was actually the first BYE event, focused on the theme ‘Mental Health and Relationships’. The BYE is designed to bring young people with broad ranging views and experiences together to have input into the council’s decision making. A perk of the job for Ming Kang on taking it up was the opportunity to present the findings to Councillors and the Mayors at a Council meeting. Probed on whether he has ambitions to be mayor Ming Kang smirks, “It’s not on my short to long term outlook, but you never say never right?”.

What are his plans then? Ming Kang’s not absolutely sure himself, the future holds many opportunities as he muses that “I could be overseas, I could be here, I could be starting my own business”, the world is definitely his oyster. In the meantime Ming Kang is contently studying Marketing at theUniversityofMelbourneand he’s keen to try to put his skills to good use. Ming Kang would like to apply his skill set to good instead of simply “driving consumption”.

Beyond the requirements of University Ming Kang still stays involved with Council as a member of the Banyule Youth Participation Network (BYPN) and is involved with MUDS- the Melbourne Uni Debating Society. In his capacity at BYPN Ming Kang has supported the Banyule 100 project. Banyule100 has helped open his eyes to the variety of things that young people are doing in his community “I had no idea that there was a young person in Banyule composing operas… it really highlights the diversity that exists amongst young people”.

Ming Kang’s involvement with debating had opened his eyes in a different way and taken him from local competitions inCarltonand Clayton to international championships inKorea.  Just a short while ago Ming Kang travelled toKoreato the Australian debating Championship, commonly known as ‘Australs’. Ming Kang says that the thing that is most valuable about young people getting involved in debating is the ability that it fosters for people to better understand the world, to “understand why things are, or aren’t, the way they are”. Other skills you develop along the way aid confidence and prepare you to think on the spot- a skill that is put to use during our interview.

Ming  Kang’s funniest debating memory takes him back to an afternoon in high school when his teammate started a debate on conscription asking “Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he chose to”. Needless to say they didn’t win the debate, but the fun of it is what keeps him going back.

One thing that I greatly respect about Ming Kang is that he harbors a strong set of values which comes across in his humble, warm and unassuming manner. Somewhat boldly I enquire what it is that drives Ming Kang. After some confusion he consolidates this to a simple philosophy as he tries to “focus on what I feel is right”, particularly the focus on “finding the good in people”.

Ming Kang isn’t your typical young leader. Not particularly outspoken, his care for global issues is none-the-less there, a “quiet campaigner in my own head”. The example that Ming Kang sets is one of the variety of things that young people in Banyule are involved with and their capacity to break the prejudices that many adults hold toward their younger counterparts. As he says, “we’re not just complainers or radical or naïve”. A hope that Ming Kang and Sean Porter, the mind behind Banyule100, hope that projects like this will do is highlight the depth and breadth of young people’s experience and contribution. It’s young people like Ming Kang that help us to escape the overly simplified stereotypes. And on a side note- I think Ming Kang would make a really great Mayor one day.

Words By:Anna Carrig

Photo by: Sean Porter

© Sean Porter 2011

 

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