The Asia 2000 Foundation was born out of a thoughtful mid-air discussion between two government ministers... (Click to read more)
The Asia 2000 Foundation, as Asia New Zealand Foundation was first known, was born out of a thoughtful mid-air discussion between two government ministers on their way home after attending meetings in Asia. Over dinner, then Minister for Trade Negotiations Philip Burdon and then Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Don McKinnon shared their concerns that New Zealanders were ill prepared for a future in Asia. “We had been discussing for some time various options for raising New Zealand awareness of the region,” Philip Burdon says. “(On the plane) our thoughts crystallised around the Asia 2000 concept as it was then.”
Initially, Asia 2000 took the form of a series of initiatives carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In June 1994 these were taken over by the newly established Asia 2000 Foundation under the leadership of Peter Harris, formerly head of the Ford Foundation in Beijing. A launch was held with Governor-General Dame Catherine Tizard and young Asian New Zealanders at Government House.
Asia 2000 buckled down to work with just three core programmes: business, education, and media/ culture. Why was it called Asia 2000? It was thought, naively as it turned out, that by the year 2000 the Foundation would have largely completed its ambitious mission of building New Zealanders’ knowledge and understanding of Asia – to say nothing of improving Asia’s understanding of New Zealand, developing constructive regional linkages and encouraging informed discussion about Asia in New Zealand.
But by the time the year 2000 came along, it was clear that the work had only just begun. As Philip Burdon in his role as Foundation chairman was to note in 2011: “It is perhaps an irony that the more we do, the more there remains to be done.”
Getting the media onboard with the Asia 2000 mission was a top priority...(Click to read more)
Getting the media onboard with the Asia 2000 mission was a top priority and not easily achieved, given that print media in New Zealand were short on staff, short on money and almost entirely focussed on local issues. Apart from the occasional natural disaster, in the early 1990s Asia seldom got a mention. No New Zealand paper, TV or radio station had its own correspondent in Asia – not even the New Zealand Press Association (though Charlotte Glennie headed TVNZ’s newly established and briefly-lived bureau in Hong Kong between 2004 and 2006) . No media organisation had an established network of stringers in Asia.
The Foundation’s media programme began the slow shift towards increased regional coverage by offering funded reporting trips known as media travel awards to Northeast, Southeast and South Asia. By June 1998 some 40 journalists had benefitted from this scheme, producing a significant body of often prize-winning work for print, radio and TV.
The media programme helped set up freelancers in Asia to file for New Zealand media and launched a series of international media seminars, bringing experienced journalists from throughout the region to debate topical issues before an audience of New Zealand journalists. The first of these “Towards 2000: The New Zealand Media and Asia” was held in 1995. New Zealander John McBeth, the Far Eastern Economic Review’s Jakarta bureau chief, used his visit to make an impassioned plea to his local counterparts to take reporting on Asia more seriously. New Zealand’s future was “intrinsically linked” to the region, he told them sternly, and “anyone who thinks otherwise has not discovered the realities of today’s world”.
As time went on cultural activities increasingly became the public face of the Foundation...(Click to read more)
Money was in short supply for the culture programme in its earliest years, but as time went on cultural activities increasingly became the public face of the Foundation. In 1994, many New Zealanders seemed unable or unwilling to distinguish between the very different cultures of the various Asian communities in their midst. To maximise results, it was decided initially to focus the Foundation’s work on festivals and grant-making activities combining family entertainment with exposure to different Asian cultures.
Another priority was to encourage high quality programming from Asia in the NZ International Arts Festival to widen its traditional focus on Europe and North America.
In 1997, the Foundation held its first nine-day national Festival of Asia, raising more than $1 million in sponsorship and bringing in more than 100 performers from nine countries to join hundreds of local performers in street festivals in main centres. There were parades, tai chi demonstrations, craft, art and photographic exhibitions -- including Marina Mahathir’s “Eyes on Asean” – plays, workshops, film shows, a book tour, museum displays, poetry competitions and much more. Almost 300 schools around the country organised activities and took part in Foundation activities including the Asia 2000 quiz and a secondary schools’ debate.
On the more formal side, seven of Asia 2000’s Honorary Advisers visited during the Festival, including Lee Hsien Loong, then Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister (today Prime Minister).
Altogether the Festival of Asia was a mammoth effort, but it was also very successful. So much so that in 1999 and 2001, the Foundation held two more. The Bangkok Post rhapsodised that the 2001 Festival was “the greatest Asian event held outside Asia” which “pushed understanding to new heights”.
In 1994 teachers in New Zealand openly admitted that they felt ill equipped to teach Asian studies...(Click to read more)
In 1994 teachers in New Zealand openly admitted that they felt ill equipped to teach Asian studies. In its founding year the education programme sprang into action with grants supporting Asia studies and languages throughout the education system.
The new Higher Education Exchange Programme provided sought-after opportunities for students, researchers and university staff to undertake study and research in an Asian country. In the first round, the Foundation supported no fewer than 13 exchange schemes involving 10 tertiary institutions in New Zealand and some 15 in Asia.
By June 1996 the education programme was able to report that “Asian studies are now starting to be recognised as an integral part of New Zealand’s education system. And…we have played the role of catalyst, advocate and funding partner in some of the most significant developments.” A year later the Foundation launched a new resource for teachers, “Educating for Asia”, with suggested topics and sample units of work. In 1999 Educating for Asia went online with a template for teachers to submit their own units.
Injections of funding from overseas made it possible to branch out into new activities, including hands-on experiences for schools. The Orion Fund, provided by a Japanese donor, brought Roadshow Japan taiko drummers from Osaka to remote communities in Whakatane, Gisborne and the East Cape in October 1997. A year later a Singaporean donor, Stanley Tan, made possible the prestigious Singapore Scholarships, enabling a few fortunate New Zealand students to study for up to four years at the National University of Singapore. The first three scholars set the standard for the project when they all graduated with first class honours, and the programme continued till 2017
Asia was still an afterthought for many New Zealand businesses in the mid-1990s and the business programme set out to change this...(Click to read more)
The business programme set up shop with a Business Fellowship scheme, enabling New Zealand businesses to send an employee to Asia for language study and work placement. Among other activities such as supporting joint applied research projects between Asian and New Zealand institutions, the programme also explored ways of helping the growing number of new migrants from Asia to become active members of New Zealand’s business community.
Importantly, in 1994 the business programme began commissioning research into New Zealanders’ attitudes to Asian business, immigrants and investment – the forerunner of the Foundation’s well- regarded annual Perceptions of Asia report, which was first released in 1997.
Ironically the 1997 Asian financial crisis served to bring home to New Zealand businesses the importance to them of the region. The Foundation did its part to ensure the business sector was kept up to date through seminars and lectures by international experts such as famed economist Paul Krugman.
By 1999, however, it was clear that the business programme needed to take a new direction to meet market needs. Rather than focusing primarily on grant-making, emphasis was now to be placed on giving New Zealanders a better understanding of Asian business practices and culture; access to analysis of Asian consumption patterns; and assistance with risk management issues.
The Foundation’s credentials in the business arena were burnished in that same year when its chairman, Philip Burdon, hosted the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) in Auckland. Asia 2000 provided the ABAC secretariat in Wellington, a role it was to perform for another 10 years. Two meetings were of the multilateral council were held in New Zealand, focused on such issues as regional economic integration, sustainable growth and capacity building.
In 1995 a fourth programme, public affairs, was added to Asia 2000’s portfolio to ensure better public understanding of the Foundation’s message...(Click to read more)
In 1995 a fourth programme, public affairs, was added to Asia 2000’s portfolio to ensure better public understanding of the Foundation’s message. Executive Director Phillip Gibson and other staff crisscrossed the country giving speeches on the Asian economic crisis which was then underway and its implications for New Zealand. The Foundation also further developed its research and analysis capacity, producing a range of papers on topical issues that were widely reported in the New Zealand media as well as appearing in the Foundation’s own Review magazine and on its new website.
A highlight of the Foundation’s public affairs early activity was the Williamsburg Conference in Queenstown in March 1998, hosted by Asia 2000 working in partnership with the Asia Society of New York. At the time it was described as the most eminent gathering of regional, political, business and academic leaders ever held in New Zealand, bringing together 52 participants from 19 countries.
The public affairs programme also catered to the needs of Asia 2000’s eminent regional network of Honorary Advisers, hosting them in New Zealand and keeping them up to date on the work of the Foundation.
“Through our website, publications, speeches and papers, and in news media coverage we work to get the fundamental ideas and facts about Asia out to New Zealanders,” Executive Director Tim Groser wrote in 2001. “That so many people of all ages and ethnicities turn out to support our events and that our name continues to be recognised by around one third of the population attests to the success of these efforts.”
The inaugural Great Asian Cook Off sponsored by New Zealand Beef and Lamb was held as part of Asia 2000’s second national Festival of Asia in 1999...(Click to read more)
The inaugural Great Asian Cook Off sponsored by New Zealand Beef and Lamb was held as part of Asia 2000’s second national Festival of Asia in 1999. Ten thousand students from 180 secondary schools competed in 12 regional cook-offs, the top prize eventually going to 17-year-old Nelly Pegler with her Japanese-style dish Lamb Itamemono.
The event was so successful that it was repeated in 2001, when more than 100 schools representing more than 3000 students entered the On Energy Asia 2000 Great Asian Cook Off. This time the boys came to the fore, with the top prize in the senior category going to Tauranga Boys’ College’s Bradley Spratt for his Smoked Beef on Wilted Char Siu.
The Cook Off was designed to encourage students to learn more about Asia through studying different food styles. “Food is an important part of culture. This is a fun way of learning about Asian cultures and a creative way of learning about Asia’s traditional foods,” said organiser Stephannie Tims.
One of the 2001 judges, chef and food writer Ray McVinnie, said judges were “knocked out” by the sophistication and professionalism of the young chefs.
The first Auckland Lantern Festival was staged in Albert Park in 2000, the auspicious Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac...(Click to read more)
The first Auckland Lantern Festival was staged in Albert Park in 2000, the auspicious Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac. While Asia 2000 already had two national Festivals of Asia under its belt, with another yet to come, it felt the need for an event with wide appeal focused solely on New Zealand’s largest Asian ethnic group, the Chinese.
Asia 2000 and its partner Auckland City Council wanted a festival that all Aucklanders would embrace as their own, but one which would evoke a sense of nostalgia in Chinese immigrants. In this they were successful. The first one-day Festival attracted an estimated 50,000 people, many of them Chinese, far exceeding crowd expectations. Auckland University’s Professor Manying Ip wrote: “To me it was so festive and magical – it transported me back to my childhood scenes of several decades ago.”
From the outset, the festival depended on partnerships, with sponsors, with airlines, and with a growing network of international cultural organisations – notably the Chinese Ministry of Culture --who generously supplied international performers. The first lanterns were bought second-hand from Singapore’s lantern festival, but as time went on the Foundation commissioned its own lanterns to be made in China, illustrating aspects of traditional Chinese culture.
In 2005 the crowd-pleasing Festival expanded to Christchurch.
Overcrowding in Albert Park in Auckland led to the move to the Domain in 2016. Today about 200,000 people attend the city’s four-day festival, which has become its biggest cultural event.
After 18 years, in 2018 the Foundation handed over the selection of international performers and lantern procurement to its partners -- Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) and ChristchurchNZ -- but remained the Festivals’ founding partner. The Foundation’s education programme still runs its highly mid-week Festival schools programme, taking performers into schools for hands-on workshops.
As the year 2000 approached, so did the question of the Foundation’s future...(Click to read more)
As the year 2000 approached, so did the question of the Foundation’s future. In late 1998 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and private sector supporters agreed to renew their financial commitment beyond 2000, the original date for the Foundation’s demise.
Asia 2000 then faced the question of whether it should change the name it had spent so much effort on promoting. In 1999, Executive Director Phillip Gibson wrote that “Asia 2000’s vision, of New Zealanders going into the next century strong in their identity and effective in the contribution we make to the region, has not yet been achieved. It remains as valid a goal for the next year as for the rest of the millennium. So we will retain our present name.”
All that was to change in November 2004, when – at the suggestion of Prime Minister Helen Clark following the Seriously Asia forum -- it was decided to bite the bullet and rename as the Asia New Zealand Foundation, accompanied by a brand-new Chinese-style knot logo. The five loops of the knot were intended to represent the five programme areas: education, culture, business, media, and research and policy.
In 2017, following another review, the renamed Arts Programme adjusted its focus to “bringing Asia into the mainstream of New Zealand art”...(Click to read more)
With one or two notable exceptions, few arts practitioners in New Zealand in the early 2000s had a grounding in contemporary Asian arts or the financial means to acquire one.
In 2004 the Foundation set up its first contemporary artist-in-residence programmes in Asia in partnership with Creative New Zealand (CNZ). Artists Kelly Thompson and Simon Kaan received funding for three months with the Sanskriti Kendra Foundation in Delhi and with Red Gate Gallery in Beijing respectively. They were the first of many to take up a growing portfolio of professional development opportunities in Asia.
In 2010, following a review of the Culture Programme by Asialink’s Alison Carroll, the Foundation introduced its first CNZ-supported curator tour, giving three New Zealand curators a crash course in contemporary art in China and South Korea under the instruction of an expert guide. A performing arts tour run on similar lines was to follow in 2015.
The highly successful Imagine Asia: New Zealand artists respond to contemporary Asia exhibition was staged by Pataka Art + Museum in 2015. Featuring 18 of the Foundation's former resident artists, it was visited by more than 56,000 people.
By 2016 the Culture Programme was offering residency opportunities in partnership with respected host organisations in 11 locations in Asia. Four of the residencies were supported by CNZ as part of its Focus on Asia initiative. Some were reciprocal, including the Wellington Asia Residency Exchange (WARE) run by the Foundation and Wellington City Council City Arts.
The renamed Arts Programme adjusted its focus In 2018 to “bringing Asia into the mainstream of New Zealand art”. A new Arts Practitioners Fund offers artists and arts managers assistance for self-arranged residencies, work placements, research tours and exchanges. As well as CNZ-supported residencies and the curator tour, the programme supports one-off contemporary arts projects and long-term strategic partnerships with major arts organisations.
New Zealand was starting from a low base in its collective knowledge of Asia and timely, well researched information was essential...(Click to read more)
Given that New Zealand was starting from a low base in its collective knowledge of Asia, the Foundation was anxious to build up a supply flow of timely, well researched information to assist business and academia. In 2000 this work commenced with the launch of the Outlook Asia series providing market analysis of 11 Asian countries.
Since then the Foundation has commissioned and/or supported a treasure trove of studies around New Zealand’s relationships with Asia, ranging from Asian Investment here to ways of nurturing the potential of our Asian under-fives. A 2009 review of the programme by the Lowy Institute concluded the Foundation was “building its reputation as a voice of reason, using its limited means energetically and passionately to achieve its goals of fostering Asia–New Zealand engagement”.
At times, however, the research makes sobering reading.
One such report, Losing Momentum - School Leavers’ Asia Engagement published in July 2017 showed that despite the Foundation’s best efforts there had been a decline in “Asia-readiness” amongst school leavers since the previous survey in 2012. It showed that fewer than four in 10 school leavers believed that Asia-related knowledge and skills would be important for New Zealand’s future workforce.
The 2018 Perceptions of Asia survey report, however, highlighted some more encouraging trends – particularly that increased person connections and travel to Asia were helping New Zealanders feel more knowledgeable about the region. The report found a marked increase in New Zealanders’ self-assessed knowledge of Asia compared to five years earlier – and the increase was particularly significant for young people.
The Diwali Festival of Lights was established in 2002 following the success of the Lantern Festival...(Click to read more)
Having achieved extraordinary success with its Chinese New Year Lantern Festival, the Foundation turned its attention to New Zealand’s second biggest Asian minority after the Chinese – the Indian community. Because the theme of ‘light’ in the Lantern Festivals had proven universally popular, the Foundation chose as its next major event India’s colourful Diwali Festival of Lights.
After a year of community consultation, in 2002 the Foundation and its partners Auckland and Wellington City Councils held New Zealand’s first big public Diwali Festivals at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Auckland and the Town Hall in Wellington. These were to be the first of many homes for the Festival – in future years in Auckland it moved to the Town Hall, the Viaduct, and then its current home at the Aotea Centre, while in Wellington it moved into the TSB Arena.
Whereas the Lantern Festival was a laid-back, mellow event, from the outset vibrant Diwali was chock-a-block full of energy and colour, especially when it came to the hotly contested Bollywood Dance competitions. To add to the festival atmosphere, the Foundation purchased colourful lengths of garlanding from India and shipped over from Singapore street decorations gifted by the Hindu Endowment Board.
Each year the Indian Council for Cultural Relations contributed performers from across India to the Festival and each year the Foundation took these performers into schools. Excited children learned dance moves, watched puppetry and tried their hand at creating bright rangoli patterns.
For adults, the Foundation devised a range of Festival activities including rangoli and short story competitions and an evocative Memories of Diwali exhibition, in which the public shared their family memories of past Diwali Festivals in India and elsewhere.
In 2018 the Foundation stepped back from its hands-on involvement in the Festivals, remaining a founding partner and cash sponsor of the events. The mid-week Foundation schools programme with performers continues.
In 2003 Asia 2000, initiated a Seriously Asia project to examine how New Zealand could strengthen its relations with Asia...(Click to read more)
In 2003, Asia 2000 initiated a Seriously Asia project at the request of Prime Minister Helen Clark to examine how New Zealand could strengthen its relations with Asia. Public contributions were sought, from which priority proposals were presented to a Seriously Asia forum at Parliament in November 2003 attended by 200 invited participants. It was preceded by a Seriously Asia dinner with keynote speaker Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister.
Seriously Asia led to an upsurge of Asia-related activity on every front, including new trade agreements and exchanges of heads of government. It also reshaped the work of Asia 2000, with the announcement of its new name and the adoption of a new strategic plan. Together with the Ministry of Education, the Foundation convened a 19-member Asia Knowledge Working Group to develop a report to guide New Zealand’s understanding and knowledge of Asia. Entitled Preparing for a Future with Asia, the report was released in 2006 after a year of consultation with four main sectors: media, education, business and culture.
“Only a few New Zealanders understand the region well enough to see the opportunities before us,” the report concluded. “Most of us don’t speak its languages or understand its cultures. Although it’s made up of more than 20 distinct countries and markets, many New Zealanders don’t even distinguish one from another.”
The Asia Knowledge Working Group laid out its vision: “By 2020 all people living in New Zealand will understand Asia well enough to allow them to fully embrace the opportunities the region offers”. Its report, it said, was “one step along a journey”.
The Foundation undertook to follow up with participants to consider how they might put into action the priorities identified in the report – raise knowledge of Asia and its people, commit to Asians in New Zealand and connect with Asia.
Launched in November 2006, the Young Leaders Network was a bold investment in the future...(Click to read more)
Launched in November 2006, the Young Leaders Network was a bold investment in the future. The inaugural Young Leaders Forum brought together 37 outstanding young students and recent graduates from both New Zealand and Asia in a week-long programme featuring animated brainstorming sessions, leadership development training, site visits and meetings with government and civic leaders.
The intention of the programme was to build enduring networks which would benefit these high achieving future leaders and at the same time strengthen the relationship between New Zealand and the countries of Asia. The 2008/09 financial year saw the first offshore forum in Singapore.
Since then the Leadership Network, as it was renamed in 2013, has gone from strength to strength. It now has around 500 members, selected through an annual competitive application process. Members can apply for a wealth of professional development opportunities, including attending high level Track II meetings and other special events featuring political and business leaders in the region. Annual hui, or meetings, on specific topics are held in New Zealand and offshore. Members can also apply for assistance from a travel fund to attend opportunities that will help with their studies, leadership, professional development, or building of Asian expertise and networks.
Longstanding member Charlie Gao spoke in 2008 of what the Network had meant to him.
“…every single member of the Network brings with them unique skills, talents and abilities while at the same time sharing a strong passion for engaging with Asia and Asian peoples – thereby lighting the way for all New Zealanders,” said Gao, a Chinese-New Zealander who vividly remembers suffering from an identity crisis during his teenage years.
“Among my new friends (in the Network) my story, background and multicultural identity are not unique,” he explained, “and these sometimes-confusing qualities are seen as a source of great strength instead of weakness.”
The Foundation’s Action Asia two-day business summit was modelled on the Seriously Asia forum of 2003...(Click to read more)
Held in conjunction with Export Year 2007 activities, the Foundation’s Action Asia two-day business summit in July 2007 was modelled on the Seriously Asia forum of 2003.
More than 500 people attended the highly successful summit, which was designed to help businesses break into potentially lucrative Asian markets. It provided participants with access to key market intelligence, case studies and advice from leading international experts on why and how they could effectively engage with Asia.
Participants heard from 47 high-profile speakers including the chief economist of the Asian Development Bank, Dr Ifzal Ali, and the SK Telecom’s Dr Songyee Yoon, named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the most influential women in the world. A VIP gala dinner the night before featured Clyde Prestowitz, founder and president of the Economy Strategy Institute in Washington DC.
As the Foundation’s chairman, Philip Burdon, noted, the summit’s feedback survey, while overwhelmingly positive, showed there was still an urgent need for practical examples and case studies of firms that had either succeeded or were unsuccessful in Asian ventures. “A consistent theme…is the need to know more about exporters who have been successful in Asia markets and the factors that ensured that success,” he said, adding “which is not an unreasonable point given that most New Zealand businesses are small to medium enterprises (SMEs) with finite resources to devote to launching offshore ventures into unfamiliar marketplaces.”
The summit culminated in the establishment of the Action Asia Advisory Group, a network of prominent businesspeople set up to provide leadership on issues affecting businesses trying to build relationships in the region.
That same year the Foundation hosted a number of business networking events, including the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) annual dinner in September.
In 2007 the Asia New Zealand Foundation and others complained to the Press Council about a cover story on Asian immigration and crime...(Click to read more)
In 2007 the Asia New Zealand Foundation and others complained to the Press Council about a cover story in North & South magazine on Asian immigration and crime, entitled “Asian Angst: Is it time to send some back?” The complaint was upheld.
At the heart of Deborah Coddington’s article was the use of figures which said that in 2001 Asians made up 6.6 per cent of the population but were responsible for just 1.7 per cent of all criminal convictions. It went on to say: “However, according to Statistics New Zealand national apprehension figures from 1996 to 2005, total offences committed by Asiatics (not including Indian) aged 17 to 50 rose 53 per cent from 1791 to 2751.”
The Foundation questioned the use of these statistics, pointing out that the claims of increased crime failed to take into account the considerable increase in the Asian population from 1996 to 2005. Measured against this increase the crime rate had actually fallen. In 1996 Asians were far less likely than the general population to commit crime by a factor of 2 to 1. By 2005 this had risen to 3.7 to 1.
On discrimination the Foundation complained that the language used was inflammatory and cited as an example “a flick through the crime files shows the Asian menace has been steadily creeping up on us”. It further complained about a lack of representation of Asian views in the article.
The Press Council’s conclusion noted in part: “That there are serious crimes committed by individual Asians is not at issue but the failure to set this in context, both of other sectors of New Zealand society and of the Asian communities as a whole, cannot but stigmatise a whole group.”
It upheld the Foundation’s complaint, finding the magazine breached its principles on accuracy and discrimination.
The idea of the festivals was to create a magical atmosphere drawing on all the excitement, energy, variety, colour and spicy aromas of a typical SE Asian night market...(Click to read more)
While the 2001 decision to drop the all-embracing Festival of Asia in favour of the Chinese Lantern and Indian Diwali Festivals made strategic sense, it also meant that some Asian communities were no longer represented in the Foundation’s large-scale public events. To help redress this situation the Foundation launched the first Southeast Asian Night Market in Wellington in August 2008 in partnership with Wellington City Council.
The aim was to create a magical atmosphere drawing on all the excitement, energy, variety, colour and spicy aromas of a typical night market in Southeast Asia. Some 20,000 people attended the inaugural festival at the TSB Bank Arena on Wellington’s Queens Wharf. Organised with the help of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) diplomatic posts and community representatives, the night market was a heady mix of spicy snack stalls, Thai, Philippine and Vietnamese martial arts performances, Indonesian wayang kulit puppets, dance and gamelan, and demonstrations of batik printmaking.
In 2010 the event moved to the summer calendar and a new home on the Wellington waterfront, with the main stage on a large barge in the lagoon. Three large archways inspired by Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese architecture marked out the Festival’s footprint. A highlight of the event was the Fruits installation work by Thai artist Wit Pimkanchanapong, fresh from the 2009-10 6th Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane.
After 2011, the event became biennial. The fifth festival in 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of New Zealand’s diplomatic ties with ASEAN and Vietnam, as well as the 50th anniversary of ties with Singapore. To mark the occasion the Night Market extended to two nights in 2015 and in 2017, the last year the event was held.
In 2009 the Foundation also supported a new Festival of Japan staged by Wellington City Council and the Japanese Embassy, which is now a popular biennial event in the capital.
Following the September 11 attacks, Muslims found themselves the object of often ill-informed suspicion throughout the Western world...(Click to read more)
Following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001, Muslims found themselves the object of often ill-informed suspicion throughout the Western world, including even far-flung New Zealand. In response, the Foundation decided to give a voice to the growing number of Muslims from the Asian region who had chosen to make New Zealand their home.
The book, The Crescent Moon: The Asian Face of Islam in New Zealand, was published in 2009. Commissioned by the Foundation, it featured photographs by well-known photographer Ans Westra and personal stories from 37 individuals of Muslim faith, as told to author Adrienne Jansen. The Muslim New Zealanders profiled in the book and its accompanying photographic exhibition ranged from fourth-generation New Zealanders to new migrants from different parts of Asia – a lawyer, farmer, accountant, computer trainer and butcher all feature. The interview subjects shared their thoughts about the media, about 9/11, about identity and faith – but mostly they just shared their own lives.
In his foreword Governor-General Anand Satyanand wrote: “Asia is home to more than half the world’s Muslims, and the majority of Muslims who have settled in New Zealand hail from one or other Asian country….By giving a voice and a face to New Zealand’s Asian Muslims, The Crescent Moon is designed to open up dialogue and lead to a greater understanding that can only benefit us all.”
The Crescent Moon photographic exhibition toured New Zealand and later travelled to Southeast Asia, showing in Indonesia in 2013 and Malaysia in 2014. In 2015 Jansen travelled to George Town, Penang, in Malaysia to work with a local team on a companion exhibition about George Town’s Indian Muslim community. The photographs from that project were later shown alongside a selection from The Crescent Moon.
Following the March 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings the updated Crescent Moon exhibition is touring again.
Preparing young New Zealanders for an economic future in Asia has long been a priority for the Foundation...(Click to read more)
Preparing young New Zealanders for an economic future in Asia has long been a priority for the Foundation. In 2009 the Foundation launched an innovative Business Education Partnership as part of its Action Asia agenda, linking individual businesses with schools to promote Asian studies with an eye to students’ future employment prospects. That same year also saw the launch of a Business Leaders Seminar Series, offering networking opportunities to New Zealand businesspeople.
By 2012, 62 companies and employee organisations had signed up to the Partnership programme, thereby recognising, in the heated words of Foundation chairman Philip Burdon, “the need for future cohorts of young New Zealanders to grow up without fear or ignorance of Asia or an inherited mono-cultural mindset that harbours stereotypes of the region as scarily exotic, linguistically inaccessible and inhabited by incomprehensible cultures”.
Business internships for young people were the next big thing. In the 2008-9 financial year, two members of the Young Leaders Network took up the first business internship offered by the Foundation within the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan. The programme rapidly expanded until today it offers numerous internships in eight locations -- China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Opportunities range from the Kyushu Railway Company in Japan to KPMG in Vietnam and the International Arbitration Centre in Hong Kong. By mid-2019, 98 interns had been through the programme, each spending up to three months working in companies relevant to their university studies.
“Thanks to JR Kyushu I now have a better idea as to what I want to do in my career,” said former intern Benjamin Watson. “Speaking Japanese daily and interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds has really pushed me to reconsider my views and in consequence triggered significant self-development.
“I now know I want a career that has Asia as a key element to it.”
In the words of Leadership Network member Alice Wang, diplomacy is like an onion, with many layers...(Click to read more)
In the words of Leadership Network member Alice Wang, diplomacy is like an onion, with many layers. The top layer is official diplomacy between heads of state, ministers and officials. The second, informal layer, is unofficial dialogue between academics, non-government organisations and other civil society leaders.
“Conversations at the Track II level are more open, free and frank,” Wang told fellow Network members on her return from attending two Track II dialogues as an observer with the Foundation. “(This allows) participants to find their way to common ground that official representatives and negotiations cannot.”
From 2008 the Foundation has led New Zealand’s Track II engagement with Asian partner organisations. Conscious that regular Track II attendees were typically of the older generation, the Foundation actively encouraged participation by highly qualified young people like Alice Wang drawn from its new Young Leaders Network. As part of its latest Think Asia strategy, it has now extended youth participation to include what it calls “NextGen” post graduate students and young professionals.
Alice Wang sees the inclusion of younger people as an ongoing challenge and opportunity. “Young people bring different views, represent an important voice within society and are the makers and influencers of future policy,” she said. ”Bringing young people into the room also provides an invaluable learning experience for those interested in international relations and government policy.”
Young participants like Leadership Network member Francis Hwang regularly comment on how useful the experience has been. “Taking part in Track II dialogues has had a profound impact on my personal and professional development – challenging my current thoughts and future ambitions,” Hwang explained.
Today the Foundation regularly heads delegations to talk with leading think tanks, universities and counterpart organisations in Asia about political, economic and strategic issues facing the region. It also hosts dialogues in New Zealand and roundtable discussions on major events in the region.
From the outset the YBLI programme proved successful, resulting in numerous partnerships, deals and joint ventures...(Click to read more)
Funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade the ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative (YBLI) was launched in 2012 to facilitate trade and build networks and connections between entrepreneurs and business leaders in Southeast Asia and in New Zealand. The Foundation’s job was to set up and host working visits for groups of young entrepreneurs from ASEAN countries, arranging for them to meet local businesspeople in their individual sectors and explore opportunities to do business in New Zealand.
As noted in the New Zealand Export and Trade Handbook, ASEAN “can seem like a hard place to do business in – despite the existence of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement”.
“Export rules can be confusing and bureaucratic, promising deals may be blocked by delays, and the different languages and cultures can seem insurmountable. No wonder, then, that many New Zealand companies feel daunted by the challenge. This is where the Asia New Zealand Foundation comes in. Engaging with entrepreneurs from the region can give business leaders better insights – or simply allow them to start meeting people they can do business with.
By July 2019, 102 business leaders from across all 10 ASEAN countries and representing a range of sectors had visited New Zealand. In addition, 46 New Zealand entrepreneurs have travelled to Southeast Asia.
From the outset the YBLI programme proved successful, resulting in numerous partnerships, deals, joint ventures – not to mention strong networks and simple sharing of business tips. In 2015 the Foundation expanded the programme to include taking young New Zealand entrepreneurs to Southeast Asia. It is now trialling extending the entrepreneurship programme to North Asia.
Alex Gage-Brown, general manager of Skinfood Skincare, was one of five New Zealand health and beauty entrepreneurs who visited Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in 2019.
“Being fully immersed in the culture to get a real understanding of a place was so valuable,” she said. “Not only meeting local businesspeople but also experiencing the retail environment, checking out the competition and watching consumer behaviour.”
The Foundation’s involvement with schools expanded from the late 1990s...(Click to read more)
The Foundation’s involvement with schools expanded from the late 1990s as it increasingly began supporting study visits giving students and teachers first-hand experience of Asia.
In 2006, the Asia Knowledge Working Group’s report Preparing for a Future with Asia gave fresh impetus to the programme as the Foundation and the Ministry of Education began formulating a campaign aimed at school principals. In 2008 pilot Asia Aware Principals’ Forums were held around the country, during which school principals discussed how to bring an Asian dimension to the classroom. Many more such forums were to follow.
Many principals pledged to incorporate Asian studies into their curricula and to introduce cross-cultural activities. Many were also keen to offer professional development opportunities to staff. But they also identified challenges such as lack of knowledge about Asia, limited resources and funding, competing priorities and resistance to Asian studies from some quarters.
The Foundation responded by launching a range of resources to help principals, including country visits. In 2011 the inaugural Educating for Asia Summit was held in Wellington, bringing together 100 school principals and educators from across New Zealand committed to making their students ‘Asia aware’. The Asia Aware Principals’ Network was launched, meeting twice a year to plan further action.
From “Asia Aware” the focus of the programme moved to making educators “Asia Equipped”, so they in turn could equip their students to thrive in the Asian century. Next up was the launch of the Educators Network – a group of principals and teachers representing over 600 schools who were passionate about Asian studies. The Foundation helped by supporting ‘Experience Asia’ evenings for educators and funding popular ‘Experience Asia’ events in schools.
The battle is still far from won. The Education Programme now has the responsibility of leading the Foundation’s work on its new “Think Asia” pathway from early childhood to entry into the workforce.
The Asia Media Centre launched in September 2017 to help improve the breadth and depth of coverage of Asian issues in the New Zealand media...(Click to read more)
The Asia Media Centre launched in September 2017 to help improve the breadth and depth of coverage of Asian issues in the New Zealand media.
Since 1994 the Foundation had supported travel by more than 350 journalists to Asia, but a major obstacle to improved media coverage remained the perceived lack of access to expertise on Asia. The Asia Media Centre aimed to overcome this deficiency by assembling a wealth of resource material including a database of Asia experts, opinion pieces, videos, infographics and commissioned articles on its website. By June 2018 more than 100 experts had signed up to the website’s database. A range of topical backgrounders highlighted stories and angles that might otherwise get missed.
This new initiative stood alongside the Foundation’s existing Media Programme of support for journalists to travel to Asia for reporting assignments, fellowships and internships in Asian newsrooms. The range of internship options available to journalism student graduates and working journalists over the years has included the Phnom Penh Post, Shanghai Daily, International New York Times in Hong Kong, the Deccan Herald, the Bangkok Post, the Philippine Star, the Myanmar Times and more.
Amongst other opportunities the Foundation supports journalism students and graduates to undertake a six-week study programme as part of the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) Journalism Professional Practicum in Jakarta, Indonesia. It also funds participation by senior journalists in the Jefferson Fellowship programme organised by the East-West Center in Honolulu.
TV3 reporter Samantha Hayes made her eye-opening first trip to Japan and China with the programme in 2016. “I learnt more in three weeks than I have in the last three months or three years,” she said.
“…it was a chance to get to know the two cultures and begin to understand how they function, discover what is important to them and the big issues they are tackling…”
For its 25th anniversary year in 2019 the Foundation sought and was gifted its Māori name -- Te Whītau Tūhono...(Click to read more)
It was perhaps a case of better late than never, but it was not until its 25th anniversary year in 2019 that the Foundation sought and was gifted its Māori name -- Te Whītau Tūhono, meaning “strong connections” -- to sit alongside its English name.
Nonetheless Maori engagement in Asia has been a constant thread through the Foundation’s work from its earliest days at a time when Māori trade missions were beginning to assess Asian markets. Back in 1998 the Foundation supported study by Sir Paul Reeves, then Asia 2000’s Visiting Professor of Asia-New Zealand Relations at the University of Auckland, into the role of Māori in the Asia-Pacific and links between Māori and Pacific peoples and Asia.
Twenty years later, the recently released report Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples from a Te Ao Māori Perspective underscored that Māori see themselves as having shared cultural views and values with many Asian cultures. Eight out of ten Māori surveyed felt positively towards Asian peoples and were generally positive about the impact of New Zealand’s ties with Asia. But only eight percent of respondents thought enough was being done to equip Maori businesses to succeed in Asia.
The survey concluded that Māori have an edge when it comes to engagement with Asia and there is potential for ties to be further strengthened. Executive Director Simon Draper described the research as a starting point for the Foundation to strengthen its Māori engagement.
To lay the groundwork, in June 2019 the Foundation’s diverse Leadership Network held its largest ever hui (“meeting” in both Maori and Chinese) in the form of an immersive workshop in Waitangi focused on Te Ao Māori (loosely translated as The Maori World). The goal of the hui was to give non-Māori a better understanding of Te Ao Māori and its links to Asia.
The new Sports programme officially launched in 2018 after the Foundation conducted research into where and how it might most usefully focus its work...(Click to read more)
The new Sports programme officially launched in 2018 after the Foundation conducted research into where and how it might most usefully focus its work.
As executive director Simon Draper noted: “We believe the ‘language of sport’, which many New Zealanders feel comfortable with, is an important way to build New Zealanders’ confidence with Asia.”
Given the upcoming focus on Japan – host of the Rugby World Cup 2019, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics, and the World Masters Games 2021 -- it was decided initially to fund ‘add on' cultural experiences for individuals and groups already travelling to Japan for sporting activities.
The programme offers grants of up to $5000 to amateur community sportspeople and school sports groups to be spent on activities providing a uniquely Japanese experience -- such as visiting a shrine or an onsen. Recipients are required to share their experience when they return home.
Among the first to take up the funding were nine young judo practitioners who added on to their sporting activities in Tokyo a challenging visit to a sento (bathhouse) and sushi-making lessons.
The Sports Programme’s new Japan-focused strategic partnerships include the New Zealand Olympic Committee. With the assistance of Foundation funding the NZOC will produce short videos on subjects like Japanese culture when its teams visit Tokyo in August 2019 to test out Olympic venues. These videos will help prepare athletes for the Tokyo Olympics and will also be used by the Foundation’s Education Programme in schools in 2020.
In the run-up to the launch of the Sports Programme, the Foundation tested the Olympic waters with a workshop in Wanaka for aspiring young athletes hoping to make the New Zealand team to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The workshop gave the athletes insights into Korean history, customs and language – and a chance to try out eating kimchi using chopsticks.