Ken, the Beecroft Cobbler is a truly remarkable man with an equally remarkable moving story. Because Ken is in his shop seven days a week, he has become part of the fabric of The Village Arcade. Apart from a few Sundays off after his stay in hospital, Ken did take a holiday in 2023, He had one day off in the middle of July!
In 1981 while still a student in Vietnam, Ken left home. Because he was about to embark on an extremely risky voyage on an overcrowded 12 metre boat with 120 passengers on board, Ken chose to leave his wife and seven month old baby daughter in the relative safety of his family in Vietnam. Ken was seeking to secure a better life for himself and his family in Australia.
The first leg of the voyage took him to Indonesia, a four day journey not without peril. A seven year old little girl succumbed to the hazards of the journey and was found drowned in the bilge of the boat. This memory continues to haunt Ken.
Ken spent two years in an Indonesian detention camp before being granted refugee status by the Australian Government. Ken said “I celebrate the anniversary of my arrival in Australia as my second birthday”. Ken spent most of his time while in an Australian immigration centre in the library learning English from the available books.
When Ken was finally released from detention, he had no money, no work references or work experience and poor English. Ken somehow made his way to Randwick Technical College and applied to learn a trade or to acquire some work skills. He told the admitting officer “My English not good, I need to learn a job for my hands not my brain”. A few days later Ken was learning to be a shoemaker.
After 8 years Ken had earned and saved enough to be able to sponsor his family and was finally reunited with his wife and daughter. Ken is now the proud father of two daughters.
When asked what he liked about Beecroft, Ken replied “Everybody in Beecroft is very friendly, The people in Beecroft is to me like my family”.