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25.05.20 | ICHM Graduate Story

Kangaroo Island Comeback

Cactus KI, the café in which ICHM graduate Yen Leow has a 50% stake, has reopened and Yen is set to expand into the accommodation sector.  

Cactus KI is located in Kangaroo Island’s main town of Kingscote, and Yen Leow’s business partner Louis Lark says the café has begun taking bookings for outdoor dining following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. 

Yen, an Australian citizen, got permission to travel home to Kuala Lumpur in March and after two weeks in quarantine is taking a break to be with family and friends and plans to return to KI for the summer season.

He’ll be busy, because as well as continuing to run Cactus KI he has invested in a motel in Kingscote, which he will redevelop when the previous owners’ tenancy expires.  

Under the new easing of COVID-19 restrictions, cafes and restaurants can open if they can offer outdoor dining for 10 people and follow social distancing guidelines.

Like most South Australian cafes, Cactus KI continued a takeaway coffee service throughout the shutdown, under the oversight of Louis Lark. The Lark family owned the hugely successful Kangaroo Island Spirits, a gin distillery and ‘cellar door’, which was recently sold to venture capitalists. 

The COVID-19 lockdown has been a second blow to Kangaroo Island, arguably South Australia’s major tourism attraction, as it bounces back from devastating bushfires in late 2019. Economic recovery across fire-affected areas of Kangaroo Island (and the Adelaide Hills) will be the recipient of a $650 million Australian Government package to rebuild fire-ravaged areas.

Yen originally came to South Australia and ICHM from partner school in Malaysia, YTL. Under the arrangement, students undertake the first two years of the ICHM program in Malaysia and can choose to come to South Australia to complete third and fourth years.

Yen and Louis Lark met while working together at the luxury Southern Ocean Lodge resort, where Yen stayed on for five years to become Assistant Lodge Manager following on from an initial industry placement of six months.  

ICHM’s Marketing Director Simon Ruston says it’s not easy to get young people, let alone those from elsewhere, to leave capital cities, but for Yen the decision is really paying off.

‘He is an impressive example of an international student making it happen in South Australia, with regional South Australia the beneficiary of his four years of high- quality education, and six years of on-the-job experience. 

Southern Ocean Lodge is also making a comeback and is set to be rebuild from scratch after being destroyed in the bushfire.

Photo: Yen’s partner Louis Lark at Cactus KI (The Advertiser)