What does it mean to be a Chinese New Zealander?
The New Zealand China Council was pleased to sponsor ‘Being a Chinese New Zealander: A Conversation with Helene Wong‘ – an event organised by the New Zealand China Trade Association Young Associates, and held in Auckland this week.
Wong, a member of the China Council advisory board was born in Taihape, to parents who had emigrated from China around the turn of the 20th century. She grew up as a New Zealander, pursuing a career that included theatre, film, television and the public service. While working as social policy adviser to Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon, she joined her parents to visit her father’s home village in southern China. The confrontation with her ancestral past sparked a three-decade quest to excavate her family’s history, examine the experience of Chinese immigrants in New Zealand, and resolve her own feelings about her identity.
The result was a memoir, Being Chinese: a New Zealander’s Story, published in 2016. The event involved Wong reading from her memoir, followed by conversations about identity shaded by Helene’s own experiences of being Chinese in New Zealand, especially around the complexity of identity including how to survive and embrace it.
Helene continues to use her skills in the arts to further our knowledge about the Chinese community and its contribution to the story of New Zealand and has recently been awarded a ONZM for her work.