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Local community rallies around Beau

A fundraiser will be held on Saturday to help Beau remain in Australia

Kwanchanok “Beau” Kuntiptong and Joan café co-owner Guy Willoughby.

Mark Phillips
Sunday, November 12, 2023

A YOUNG Thai woman has made such an impression on her local Brunswick East community that they have organised a fundraising event so she can continue to live and work in Australia. 

Kwanchanok “Beau” Kuntiptong (Beau is a family nickname pronounced as ‘B-you’) needs to raise more than $20,000 so she can qualify for a 482 temporary skilled migration visa and continue working at Joan café across the road from Fleming Park in Albert Street. 

Her bosses, Guy Willoughby and Eve Bryant have already paid about $5000 to sponsor her as a valued employee. 

While Kuntiptong, 29, is prepared to borrow money if she has to, when regulars at the café heard of her situation, they got together to organise an event to raise the funds for her. 

The Beau’s Do will be held this Saturday at Gales Brewery in Brunswick East. 

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“The business we have built is really based on the staff that we have and the team that we have, and Beau has been a key member of that team, so to lose her as we would have if her visa was expiring and she had to go back to Thailand would have been a huge loss for us as a business,” Willoughby said. 

“We wanted to look into sponsorship which we went ahead with and we knew there would be a cost for us as a business but what we didn’t realise at the time was that burden financially on Beau.

“So that’s when some of the customers got together and also wanted to help and keep her here because she’s made such connections and become such a big part of the community around here, they didn’t want to see her go.” 

Kuntiptong began working for Willoughby when the café was located in Pascoe Vale in 2017. A science graduate in her native Thailand, she had come to Melbourne to study English and business with the intention of returning home after a year. 

But she fell in love with the city and her job and now wants to make a career of hospitality in Melbourne. 

When COVID-19 struck in early-2020, she decided to remain in Australia rather than return to Thailand and was able to obtain a special COVID visa to work here. But that meant she was unable to be near her father when he died two years ago. 

Ultimately, she intends to seek permanent residency in Australia. 

“I’m from Bangkok so it’s a very, very busy, chaotic city but the lifestyle here – even though I have to work so much to survive plus study and trying to be in the class at the same time – I still find the lifestyle here is way much better than back home,” she said. 

“Definitely I miss home but home is always there for me. I’m trying to do something for my future, I think.” 

Willoughby said the feeling has been reciprocated, and even though she now spends most of her time out of the public eye in the kitchen, Kuntiptong is much-loved by the café’s customers. 

“People always comment on how they can hear her laughing across the park and they’re drawn in by her spirit, I guess.  

“So that’s what she does in the community. She knows everyone, talks to everyone about their kids and their dogs and all that stuff.” 

By the time she has fulfilled all the requirements for her visa, she will be almost $20,000 out of pocket, including the costs of obtaining her skills certification and an English language exam. 

Willoughby said he wanted to raise awareness about how Australia’s immigration system treats people differently depending where they come from. He said skilled migrants from Europe did not have the same costs as those from Asia. 

“Definitely I miss home but home is always there for me. I’m trying to do something for my future, I think.”

“Definitely I miss home but home is always there for me. I’m trying to do something for my future, I think.”

Several people have been involved in organising the fundraiser, including Brendan Jones, an architect who lives near Fleming Park. 

“We have been locals at Joan since they opened and have come to know Beau as a warm, modest, joyful woman who also happens to make the best toasted sandwiches going,” he said.  

“The fundraiser is an opportunity to make a practical difference to an important member of our local community who greets everyone with the most beautiful smile and infectious laugh.” 

Kuntiptong said that when she started thinking about the support from the Fleming Park community she became emotional and would begin to cry. 

“It’s amazing. … I always say to Guy that sometimes I feel like this is too much for me to take.” 

Beau’s Do is from 3-6pm this Saturday, November 18, at Gales Brewery, 28 Gale Street. There will be live music, raffles, a silent auction and other action throughout the afternoon. 

People unable to attend the event can also donate to the GoFundMe page that has been set up to raise $5000 for Kuntiptong.