What started as a short term project for her university course has turned into a decade-long passion that transports seniors from Melbourne’s Chinese community to a piece of their homeland for a few hours every week.

Arriving in Australia 32 years ago with her husband and two children, Anna Wang spent the first few years working and raising two young children. In her fifties she enrolled into a Social and Community Welfare course at Monash University, and as part of her student placement at Central Bayside Community Health Services she developed a social support group for Chinese seniors, which, to her surprise, was an instant runaway success.

For my first group I put out 15 chairs and 50 people turned up, she recalls, laughing. I had no food, not enough chairs – I just wasn’t prepared. That first meeting a decade ago blossomed into two groups: the Kingston Chinese Senior Citizens Club at Clarinda Community Centre, where around 120 members meet on Fridays, and the Clayton Chinese Seniors Association at Clayton Senior Citizens Club, where around 60 members meet on Wednesdays – for activities including table tennis, Mahjong, outings, singing, Tai Chi, English language classes and to share stories in their first language. Anna is the volunteer president of both groups.

It just goes to show there was a real need in the Australian Chinese community for a group where older Chinese can come together – and it’s been so powerful in reducing social isolation,she says.

Anna is also coordinating community events including the Chinese Cultural Community Festival in Clayton and the Chinese Lantern Festival as part of the Victorian Seniors Festival.