Anzac Day series – Kathleen Quan Mane (English)

I was born the fifth girl to a Chinese family who wanted boys. When I was 18, I enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force which is part of the RAAF.

Mother Emilia was born in Hay, New South Wales. Father migrated to Longreach, Queensland when he was a young lad of about 13.

Growing up in Australia, it was the time of the great depression. We were a Chinese family among Westerners. We ate Chinese food and we lived a Chinese lifestyle.

We learned a lot from the other Aussie girls who were very nice, who taught us how to live their kind of life. Our childhood was a very happy one. We didn’t want for anything.

I had been trained as a secretary and I wanted to do something different. My sister Doreen also said, “Why don’t you try the Cipher course”. So I tried the Cipher course, and I did it.

My mustering was that of ‘cipher assistant’. Cipher, it translates. You send a message from here to some other station. We just translated English to code, or code to English. You felt important because you were doing important things. And you weren’t allowed to talk about it which made you more important.

I took part in humanitarian work under a United Nations project. I came back to Australia and joined the RAAF association. I am very proud to say that five members of our family including myself have been in the Australian Military. Doing their bit for the defense of Australia. We have kept our way of life just to be part of it. I’m proud of that.

The values that are important to me at this time in my life are fair go for all, freedom of speech, freedom to be who you want to be. See, as a Chinese Australian I’ve had a fair go. I wasn’t segregated. And it’s the same for my son and daughter They both have good jobs now. I think that’s good for Australia. Everyone has a fair go, everyone has the same opportunity. It’s up to you to take it up or not.

The Anzac tradition officially is one day in the year, but to a person who has seen some something of the war\ you can remember these heroes every day. Think of what they did. They sacrificed their lives so that the generations after them could live a happy life.

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