By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A philanthropic pharmacist has launched a heavyweight bid for a seat on Greater Dandenong Council.
Richard Lim OAM will be seen as a strong chance in succeeding the retiring four-time mayor Youhorn Chea in Springvale Central ward in October’s election.
Like Cr Chea, Mr Lim has been active in the Cambodian Association of Victoria as well as an Australian Labor Party member.
But he insists he is “independent” with a suite of ideas to build on Springvale’s cultural identity and drawcard shops and eateries.
Mr Lim envisages more tidy, modern shopfronts, cleaner public toilets, playgrounds and an immigration museum, Cambodian-style gateway and a cultural New Year event in April.
But the number one issue is parking.
He shares Cr Chea’s bugbears about the under-utilised multi-level car park at 8 Balmoral Avenue – at odds with the congestion at street level.
“People don’t like driving in there,” Mr Lim said – citing the narrow corners, darkness and confined spaces within.
“Glen Waverley is growing so fast. We lose a lot of customers from Springvale to Glen Waverley because of the parking.”
An engineering solution may be expensive but would pay for itself if the car park filled to capacity, he says.
A generous sponsor and benefactor, Mr Lim has long donated widely and organised fundraisers such as $1 million for Monash Health recently.
His causes include Monash Childrens Hospital, The Salvation Army, Springvale Rise Primary School, Cambodian Vision, Cambodian Youth Association of Victoria and Save Cambodian Childrens Fund.
He has sponsored local students to go on school camps, as well as schools to be built in Cambodia.
“It’s part of my mother’s attitude. She was a very kind person who was really well known in her home town.”
Sadly, she and Mr Lim’s father died through a lack of food and medication under Pol Pot’s murderous regime in his Cambodian homeland in 1975-‘79.
Many of his family, including siblings, were “wiped out” as were most of Mr Lim’s youth group.
Aside from murder, torture and starvation, some of the 1.2 million Cambodians killed suffered from a lack of Western medicine.
It was outlawed in favour of ineffective herbal treatments. “This was to ensure that only high profile members of the regime had access to these medications.”
In 1980, Mr Lim escaped by riding a bike for weeks to cross the Thai border. He lay for three days in a pineapple field to avoid open fire between Vietnamese soldiers and the Khmer Rouge.
He also worked for the Red Cross and Medicins San Frontieres as a doctor and nurse in Khao I Dang refugee camp.
In 1980, he gained refuge with his brothers and sisters in Australia.
Within a year, he formed Cambodian Youth Association of Victoria to tutor and help assimilate young refugees.
“After 30 years in Springvale, I feel like my customers and members of the community are my family.”