Australian Office

Stanley Wang

This week, ‘ 40Years, 40Stories’ brings you Stanley Wang – Principal of Abbotsford Primary School and recipient of the 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australians Award in 2021. Stanley shares how he found his true calling in teaching, and how he’s working to promote cross-cultural understanding through bilingual education & learning. This is his story:


In 1997, I visited my aunt’s house in Melbourne for the summer holidays and had the opportunity to spend four weeks at Glendal Primary School. Despite not having a word of English, I somehow fell in love with the school and was very reluctant to go home. After ‘negotiating’ for a full year with my parents, the next summer, I set off from Taiwan on my own and moved to Australia as a stubbornly adventurous 9-year-old international student. Against all the odds, I managed to thrive, and a year later, my parents packed up our home in Taiwan and joined me in Melbourne. Whatever happened in that initial four-week taster in a Grade 3 classroom is certainly too distant to recall, but I think my newfound love for learning at the time had planted the seed that eventually grew into my passion for teaching.

In the 2000s, as the socio-political discourse in Australia shifted towards deeper engagement with Asia, I slowly realised that my proficiency in Mandarin would be an asset in the Asian century, rather than a barrier that prevented me from becoming a successful Australian. Thanks to the great teachers I have had throughout school and university, I found my niche in linguistics, and developed a lifelong passion for learning (or sometimes simply dabbing into) languages, including Japanese, Korean, French, Finnish, AUSLAN, and so on.  My curiosity in the linguistic and cultural diversity of our world has sent me to more than 50 countries as a traveller.  It also motivated a career chapter in Taiwan, where I was able to contribute to the growth of the NGO, Teach For Taiwan, and the collective leadership of its alumni network in tackling educational disadvantage.

In 2020, I returned to Melbourne to take up my first principalship at Abbotsford Primary School, the oldest Chinese English bilingual school in Australia. At Abbotsford, students take half of their classes in Chinese, and the other half in English. As part of our global engagement program, each class also has a ‘buddy class’ in Taiwan or Malaysia, and students periodically write letters, send mystery gift boxes, conduct interviews, and collectively solve problems together with their overseas buddies. These opportunities aim to develop the students’ intercultural understanding, while offering them the opportunity to practise the target language in an authentic setting. Most importantly, students learn to empathise with their buddies as learners just like themselves, and appreciate the complexities of their own language in a very different light.

As the first Taiwanese-Australian principal in Victoria, as well as the first bilingual leader with whom the school has engaged, I am keen to transform Abbotsford into a hub for innovation in Chinese English bilingual education. For our students, I hope my time as the leader here sees Abbotsford being an institution where everyone’s unique multicultural identities are nurtured, and a place where students aspire to become bilingual, interculturally competent, and maybe one day, a teacher too.