Australia's most famous refugees
Known as high-rise Harry, Harry Triguboff is a real estate developer worth a whopping 11.40 billion dollars. He’s a self-made billionaire who started working in real estate after stints as a taxi driver and milkman. Harry’s success started when he developed a block of flats in Sydney, a city he called home after he was sent to Australia in 1947 by his Russian Jewish parents. Having been born in China, Harry could no longer call the country home due to the rise in popularity of Leninism. So Harry and his older brother were sent to Sydney, and even though Harry later left Australia to study abroad, he returned in 1960 and it’s here where he made his fortune.
Harry founded Meriton Apartments, which he is still the managing director of at the age of 85, establishing the company as the leading residential property developer in the country. Harry shares some of his wealth, being a well-known philanthropist to the Australian Red Cross, the Heart Research Institute, Westmead Children’s Hospital, Bowel Cancer Fund Research and the Sydney National Cancer Foundation.
You don’t need to be a sports fan to know the name Les Murray, but the name László Ürge is less recognisable. Yet that was Less Murray’s birthname when he was born in Hungary in 1945. Due to the Hungarian Revolution in the mid 1950s, many Hungarians fled. Some came to Australia under the Hungarian Refugee Assisted Scheme, as Les’ family did in 1956. After arriving at the Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre near Wodonga, the Ürge family settled in Wollongong. Their new surname was chosen not only because it would be easy for Aussies to pronounce, but it referenced the Mura river, which runs through Central Europe.
Starting out as a journalist and Hungarian language subtitler, Les became Australia’s most well- known soccer TV presenter. He’s credited with the increase of popularity of the game in the 80s, presenting numerous sports programs such as ‘On the Ball’ and ‘The World Game’. A member of FIFA’s Ethics Committee, Les also received a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the round-ball. So popular was “Mr Football” that when he passed away last year, his state funeral drew over 1000 people.
Another resident of Bonegilla in the 1950s was Karl Kruszelnicki, better known as Dr Karl. Born in Sweden in 1948, Karl’s Polish Jewish parents (both Holocaust survivors) took their family to Australia when Karl was a toddler. And just like Les Murray, Karl grew up in Wollongong as well. He attended the University of Wollongong where he did a Bachelor of Science (with a Major in Physics) and went on to do a Master of Biomedical Engineering at the University of NSW, and a Bachelor of Medicine
and Bachelor of Surgery at Sydney University. As if all these education credentials weren’t enough, Dr Karl also received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Karl used all of his scientific know-how as a presenter of the ABC show Quantum in the 80s and has become a regular fixture on many TV and radio shows, as well as hosting his own radio slot on Triple J. Although he was unsuccessful in his attempt to enter the Senate, Karl was rated as the ninth most trusted Australian by Readers Digest readers, ranking higher than most of our politicians.
Ahn Do has many strings to his bow – he’s a comedian, artist, actor and author. His book ‘The Happiest Refugee’ is an autobiographical account of how Ahn and his family fled to Australia from Vietnam in 1980. They spent five days in a small leaky boat which was twice attacked by pirates who robbed the passengers. Anh’s book picked up many awards, such as the 2011 Australian Book of the Year, Biography of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, and was shortlisted for the 2011 NSW Premier's Literary Awards.
Before he became an author, Ahn worked as a stand-up comedian, a gig he cut back on so that he’d have more time to paint. His paintings were finalists in several Archibald Prizes, have won Kogarah Art Prize awards and became the focus of his TV show ‘Anh’s Brush with Fame’, where he painted other Australian celebrities. A third season has just begun, featuring Adam Goodes, Sigrid Thornton, and funnily enough, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.
Main image: Fancycrave