Simon Draper's End of Year Update

Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete ki a koutou. What a year. As it has been for everyone, 2020 was a challenging one for the Foundation, with all the plans we had in January thrown into disarray by March, and from there on it was a matter of re-imagining how we do things. It was a year of uncertainty, challenges, collaboration and learning new skills.
Leadership Network member Claire Achmad, Board member Simon Murdoch, Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Hon Dame Fran Wilde and Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director Simon Draper

Thanks to Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Nanaia Mahuta for our first meeting today as our Minister. I tino pai te hui. Enjoyed talking about Aotearoa's connections to Asia and looking forward to working with you more

Given all the restraints, we achieved a lot, including establishing an official presence in the South Island, three Asia After Five functions, Leadership Network hui, Track II dialogues, new arts commissions – I speak more about these below – and numerous webinars. And throughout the year the Asia Media Centre has been providing in-depth coverage of Asia’s response to Covid-19 as well as keeping New Zealand journalists abreast of all the other big stories coming out of the region. 

Unlocking the key to Māori Success in Asia  

Through our work with Asia, it has become apparent that Māori are, and will increasingly be, at the forefront of New Zealand’s engagement with the region.

Our report Asia and Asian Peoples from a Te Ao Māori Perspective found Māori see themselves as having shared cultural views and values with many Asian cultures; what’s more, as Māori culture becomes more recognised in Asia, we’re increasingly seeing this view of a special connection being reciprocated. And what we’re finding is an understanding of cultural practices is helping Māori get ahead in Asia.

To delve deeper into this, we thought it would be a good idea to talk to Māori ‘making it’ it in Asia to discover what they thought the ‘Māori-in-Asia X-factor' was.  

Our series Unlocking the key to Māori Success in Asia  provides fascinating insights into Māori who through embracing their own culture have found themselves and their mahi embraced by others.

 Arts Commissions 

With lockdown in full swing and artists finding themselves without the usual avenues to promote their work, our arts team explored ways that we could both provide support for artists and reaffirm our message about the important role the arts can play in creating and maintaining connections between New Zealand and Asia. 

 This resulted in our IN TOUCH arts commissions, which funded 10 artists who had previously participated in our programmes to produce digital works that draw on their Asia experience.  

We will be publishing and promoting the works over coming months; the first of them, Kapowai Taiao by Daniel Belton, can be viewed below.    

Entrepreneurs reflect on testing year at Waiuku summit   

The Foundation brought together a group of 30+ entrepreneurs, including two who feature in the Unlocking the Key to Māori Success in Asia series, in Waiuku this month to reconnect and reflect on the year that’s been.

 All of the group have visited Southeast Asia through the Foundation’s ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative (YBLI) to build connections with Southeast Asian entrepreneurs, learn more about the region and do business.  

We work with many of New Zealand’s leading entrepreneurs, so it’s little wonder it was a hui of fantastic kōrero about challenges, opportunities, collaborations and, of course, connections with Asia. We’ll be publishing more about this event early next year.    

Language learning in New Zealand schools  

This month the Foundation made a submission to the Education and Workforce Select Committee in support of the establishment of a national languages policy aimed at increasing the teaching of languages in primary and intermediate schools. 

The Foundation’s position is that for New Zealand to keep up in an increasingly diverse and connected world, we need to foster in our rangatahi a greater understanding of other cultures. A primary way of doing this is through language learning. 

Currently, the level of Asian language learning in New Zealand schools is very low and not commensurate with the economic, social and cultural importance of Asia to this country. 

Our submission was informed by research produced or commissioned by the Foundation as well as experience and knowledge acquired through our education programme. 

While there has been and will continue to be much debate over what languages schools should prioritise, this debate shouldn't get in the way of policy being implemented.  

Welcome to our new Honorary Adviser Vanushi Walters 

Finally, I’d like to welcome Vanushi Walters as the Foundation’s latest Honorary Adviser. Vanushi is a lawyer and member of Parliament representing the Upper Harbour electorate (Auckland).  

Vanushi is the first Sri Lankan-born member of the New Zealand parliament and is a strong advocate for human rights. I really look forward to getting to know her and introducing the work of the Foundation.

A group of Leadership network members in the Auckland Skytower

Congratulations to the 14 Leadership Network members who graduated this month. To mark the event, the network held a gathering at Auckland's Sky Tower.

And on that note, I’ll sign off for the year. I hope you all have a wonderful, and no doubt well deserved, break that allows you to come back fresh and ready to go in the new year.

 Noho ora mai, 

Simon Draper