Robert Chua Wah Peng was born in Singapore in 1946 to a reasonably well off middle class family. His father was in the garment business, which provided enough wealth and comfort to give Robert and his two brothers their own personal housemaids.
Soon his parents divorced before he was 10 years old, an unusual event for Singapore at the time. He and his brother were sent to St. Andrew’s Boarding School. “It was very sad” Robert says, “But it helped me. It taught me to defend myself. You learn. I am quick to adapt.” While he was still a student in Singapore, his father joked that the young Robert indulge his appreciation of the theatre and pretty faces by becoming involved in the television industry.
He attended the top schools in Singapore, St. Andrew’s School and Anglo Chinese School before leaving for Australia to attend the exclusive Kings College in Adelaide. It was there he saw his first TV programs, including his favourites, Top Ten Pop Hits of the Week and the Flintstones. Remembering his father’s advice he got his start in television, as a property assistant at ADS Channel 7 in 1964, aged 17.
Always keen to learn new skills, he tried any job the station would let him do, working up to 15 hours a day. By the time he left two years later, he had picked up the basics of everything from props and camera work to directing and won praise from his superiors.
When he left Adelaide he had a broad knowledge of all the major skills involved in putting TV programs to air. This early experience was to prove invaluable in later stages of his career.