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Migrants infuse economies of cash, cuisine and creative arts

28 June 20240 comments

This United Nations Micro-, Small- and Medium-sized (MSM) Enterprises Day, Manka Café, in Brisbane’s Sunnybank, provides the perfect place for a contemplative cuppa.

Falling on 27 June, the annual observance is designed to consider the contribution of MSM Enterprises to economies, and in Australia one third are run by migrants or their adult children.

Speaking to iMPACT in Mandarin, the founder of Manka Café Mr Jack Ng’s words may be translated into English as, “[To] migrate here, I need[ed] a business.”

Over two thirds of these entrepreneurs did not run businesses in their countries of origin.

From the time Mr Ng immigrated to Hong Kong from Guangdong Province as a 24-year-old, he worked as a foreman for a Japanese importer.

Mr Ng migrated to Australia “around 2019”, at a time when “Hong Kong had issues”, as a husband and father of two in his sixties who “missed [his] daughter”.

Reflective of the family prioritising “happiness” over “money”, Ms Nancy Ng was “sent” to Sydney “six or seven years ago” to attend a university “subject” that was unavailable in Hong Kong.

“She really likes drawing pictures,” her father says.

The theme of the family business embraces Miss Ng’s love of Japanese anime, to which at “four years [of age] she was introduced”.

This aesthetic extends to a large mural Ms Ng painted on one of the café walls and sculpted cupcakes.  

Mr Ng, “learnt himself using YouTube” how to create the extensive fare offered in the Hong Kong style menu.

“My daughter also taught herself,” Mr Ng says in reference to the café’s signature manga-style modelled cappuccinos.

Mr Ng says, “We have foreigners and we have locals, the most we have [are] customers from Hong Kong”.  

Whilst he noted that most non-Chinese customers prefer coffee, an array of herbal teas and custard egg tarts are offered to make diaspora of his own community feel at home.

Not having spoken English prior to immigrating, Mr Ng says of the process, “[It’s] very hard.

“One reason is that the culture is different, another reason is that I have had to look for other kinds of work.

“I recognise myself here is safe [and migrating] has to be a little hard, but that is beside the point,” says Mr Ng.

Small businesses like Manka Café contributed over $500 billion to the Australian gross domestic product (GDP) last financial year, and approximately 30 percent of them were run by first or second-generation migrants.

This MSM Enterprises Day, citizens who believe the settlement of migrants to be burdensome could consider the benefits they bring in economic growth, cuisine and culture.

By Pamela See