NZCA Leadership and Development Conference 2008

20th to 25th January 2008
By Henry Kuo, Patrick Truong, Richard Wong, and Karena Sew Hoy

This year, the NZCA Leadership & Development Conference was held from 20th to 25th of January. The delegates from all over New Zealand, aged between 18 to 28, gathered at the Wellesley Country Club, Upper Hutt, Wellington, for a week of making new friendships, listening to and learning from respectable Chinese New Zealanders at the top of their fields.

Six delegates representing the Otago & Southland Chinese Association attended the conference. The representatives from Dunedin were Henry Kuo, Patrick Truong, Richard Wong, and Karena Sew Hoy. The representatives from Invercargill were Xing Dong Yan and Lin Zhuo. All of these representatives are involved with organising and participating in the activities of OSCA.

The underlying theme of the camp was identity. Various speakers talked about their difficulties through adolescence.

The very first speaker for the camp was our very own representative from Dunedin, Mayor Peter Chin. His main message for us young delegates was “Do it your way.” This was very applicable for us as we were going to be listening to a number of different speakers with different backgrounds and strategies to succeed but at the end of the day, we were all individuals with different personalities. Mayor Chin told us that we needed to listen to the speakers and take out what we were interested in and use it in our own way to seek out success. He also gave us insight into his own personal experiences growing up, and being Dunedin’s first Chinese mayor. He was noticed as everyone in his own local Chinese community looked up to him, and from there he became known by the wider Dunedin community. Mayor Chin told us that it is important that if you want to become a leader, you firstly need to gain confidence in yourself through public speaking.

Professor James Liu was another very remarkable speaker who came to talk to us. He has a PHD in social psychology, is an author to more than 85 academic articles, and he is a Chinese American New Zealander. Professor James started his speech with an activity for us to define ‘who’s hot and who’s not.’ This activity was pointing out to us, what the ideal accepted and perfect looking face was, but from this we were to learn not to judge people by their appearance, but instead get to know someone before you judge them. Professor James Liu had four main areas which he talked about, listed below:

  1. Personal trait and situation.
     -Who you are is what people think of you and what opportunities they give you. -Our behaviour is influenced by our personality and the people around us. For example, in front of some people we are comfortable and in front of others we are not.

  2. Culture and inheritance.
     -Family inheritance is passed down to you. This creates your basic social identity; your ethnicity, gender, nationality and age. These things could help connect you with groups of people who are the same as you. For example, Chinese connecting with Chinese.

  3. Social capital.
    -He emphasized that the value of people and friends can help you get somewhere. There are two types of capital, firstly the bonding capital. These are your best friends; people you are closest to. The second type is of capital is bridging, which is the most important out of the two types. This contains the group of people which help you to get somewhere, and these people are generally introduced to you by friends in the first group (bonding capital). There is a higher chance of people from the second group helping you out in getting somewhere as opposed to your best friends (bonding capital).

    From this, we learnt that networking is very important, as unlike trait and cultural heritance, you need social capital if you want to become a leader. “Leadership is often about the bridging of two groups.” For example, trying to bridge the gap between overseas/mainland Chinese and New Zealand born Chinese, to raise our social capital.

  4. Organization structure.
    -Every organization has an ideal leader which is embedded in the organization’s culture. It is important that if you want to be a leader that it is important getting along with and working interdependently with other members of the leadership team.
One speaker which we found very inspiration in the choice of his profession was Andrew Young, being the CEO of the Starship Foundation. He was previously the communications manager where he worked on media and public relations. He told us many stories about the patients and their families who he had got to know from working at Starship, and we found them all very touching; especially the one about Keegan after there was a documentary filmed on him, and who Andrew became very close to.

He also spent a lot of his time talking to us about how he previously did not want to be associated with Chinese, and wanted to be just like his other European friends.

It was not until he went on the Guangdong Winter Camp, where he realized how important it really was to accept himself as being Chinese. After the trip he was more appreciative of the efforts that his family made coming to New Zealand as he realized how lucky he was being able to grow up in New Zealand.

Monica Mercury was a very interesting speaker to listen to as she had a bright and bubbly personality. She was also quite different from the rest of the speakers as she is a New Zealand Chinese Maori who likes to call herself a “Chaori.” She was the captain of the Wellington NBL team in 1992, and was also a part of the 2001 WNBL champions. In her younger days she participated in the NZCA annual Easter sports tournament. Because of her mix of ethnicities, it was difficult for her to become accepted into both ethnic groups. When she was younger, it was difficult for her as she physically looked different and was a lot bigger than her Chinese cousins. Like the other speakers, she spoke a lot about her identity issues. Her main message to us was “to take the best from both worlds”. Monica joked that because she was part Chinese, she was hard working and good at maths, and since she was part Maori she can sing and have a good sense of humor.

Another speaker was Gilbert Wong, who leads the communication team at the Human Rights Commission. He excels as a contributing writer and theatre reviewer for Metro where he was an associate editor and the arts editor. His talk was about the past and recent media attacks on increasing Asian immigration to New Zealand. He talked about how in 1993, the mainstream media presented biased views and titled the story as “Asian Invasion”. This took a while to get to the press council and was difficult for Chinese to fight back. In 2006, an almost identical article was released by North and South Magazine titled “Asian Angst”. However this article sparked negative reviews by the public. This proved a change in perceptions of Chinese in New Zealand. Today there is a lot of cultural diversity within the media such as Melissa Davies, a European Chinese New Zealander reporting for 3 News, who was also a speaker at the conference.

Nigel Murphy gave an overview of the history of the Chinese immigration within New Zealand starting from the gold rush of the 1880s where many of us delegates’ ancestors were miners of the Otago gold rush. Nigel identified two movements. The majority of New Zealand Chinese came from the Gum Sarn (Gold Mountain) movement where Chinese men left their homes to obtain gold for the family in China. He also talked about the various acts in Parliament that were used to exclude Chinese from the majority group of New Zealander’s such as the Poll Tax, exclusions from social benefits, the exclusion of Chinese women to prevent families from starting up in New Zealand and reading tests designed to reject those who were English illiterate. This historical overview provided us with a general understanding and appreciation for the Chinese settlers who provided us with a better life in New Zealand.

Before attending the conference the delegates were required to complete an online test by Myers-Briggs to determine what personality formula we belonged to. The theory behind the test was that human behaviour is predictable and everyone belonged to one of sixteen styles. However these are only our “preferred mode of operation” and we can step out of these modes at times, much like stepping out of our comfort zone. Caroline Lineham was the lady who came in to take this session with us. She taught us that as leaders we should be mindful of the other personalities that we work with and to find the best way to get them to contribute in any situation.

We were placed in groups that were theoretically perfect as different personalities were able to compliment each other. Our first group activity was competing against one another to design a wearable art outfit. In our chosen groups, we were able to experience problems which we would come across in a real organization, and we learnt how to use each other’s strengths and weaknesses to create wearable art that was showcased at the end of the activity.

Afterwards we were introduced straight into our main task to be completed by the end of the camp. Each group was to come up with, and organize the event based around a new national day for New Zealand. This proved the most demanding as at the end of the Conference each group had to present their idea, including a skit, to a panel of judges in “Dragons’ Den” style. We found that because of the many different personalities within each group, many teams experienced a lot of conflict similar to a real working situation. It also gave us the chance to interact with the different personalities and styles classed by the Myers-Briggs system.

Throughout the week, each of the teams completed many tasks which helped bond and build better team relationships for the main task. One activity, which definitely strengthened each team, was the confidence course where we were able to have another chance to think about each group member’s Myers-Briggs combination, and to work the whole group’s combinations together to make sure the group was able to complete the confidence course in quick time.

On the Thursday night, we were lucky enough to be invited to the Chinese Embassy for dinner. We were greeted by the Ambassador and other important figureheads within the Embassy. The dinner was a very authentic Northern Chinese meal and all of us were surprised with the interesting dishes prepared. Afterwards the Ambassador was kind enough to give a speech and answer some of our questions.
(Back) XIng Dong Yan (Invercargill), Henry Kuo (Dunedin), Richard Wong (Dunedin), Patrick Truong (Dunedin)
(Front) Lin Zhou (Invercargill), Karena Sew Hoy (Dunedin)

Delegate’s Personal Thoughts:

The NZCA LDC was a great experience for me. The gathering of delegates from all over New Zealand made this a very special event. It was an awesome opportunity to meet people my age who had similar experiences and issues about our identity during adolescence. The friendships that were made are now an important network for the future New Zealand Chinese community.
The organisers and facilitators were a great bunch of people, always positive and happy to help. It created a very friendly atmosphere. Most of them were delegates from the LDC in the previous year, so the facilitators were also involved in the same experience as us.

The speakers were diverse and some had conflicting views but all were very inspirational, showing us paths we are able to take for success. The variety of speakers showed me that there is not one correct way for doing things, but numerous. I need to find and decide which path is best for me.

Henry Kuo

The New Zealand Chinese Association Leadership & Development Conference was straight up awesome. Listening to all the speakers made me realise that to become a leader you must believe in yourself so you can believe in others. The speakers, activities and the delegates who also attended the conference all helped me become a better leader.

The thing I liked the most at LDC was the new friendships I have made and the speeches from the successful New Zealand Chinese people. The delegates and the coordinators that attended LDC were amazing and glad that their friendships will be everlasting, even if they are from different provinces in the country.

Since attending the LDC I have brought back to Dunedin with me many memories, skills, knowledge and most importantly friends that I would cherish forever. The camp helped me utilise the skills I have and put them towards helping our next generation of New Zealand Chinese kids and help them grow and become our next generation leaders.

Patrick Truong

As a New Zealand born Chinese I have had very little contact with many Chinese who have immigrated to New Zealand. This is because there are many barriers which create a large void between me and my own heritage. I was brought up speaking English and even though I learned of the hardships my ancestors endured to give me the life I have now, I was still disinterested in closing this void. This NZCA Youth Leadership Camp helped me realise the responsibility I have, as a NZ Chinese, to bridge the gap between 3rd/4th generation Chinese, like myself and 1st generation Chinese. During my time at the camp I developed a better perception of both cultures. I was also able to create new friends and establish a network with all of the delegates of the camp. I value the time I spent with all the delegates and am confident that we will all become life long friends. We all have frequent correspondence with each other through email and Facebook. Those who attended the Easter Sports Tournament in Auckland this year also had a great reunion.

The Camp also inspired me to develop my leadership skills. Successful leaders from all over New Zealand shared their stories on leadership and how they battled with identity issues throughout their lives. We also learned how to optimise our personality strengths, improve on our weaknesses and understand how to work well with other types of personalities through the Myers-Briggs assessment. Practical application of this was critical throughout the camp when we were divided into different teams to work on various projects and games.
Overall the camp was a great place to gain a better understanding of who I am today. We must capitalise on our unique cultural background that can relate to both English and Chinese people and, being raised in such a culturally diverse country, I feel that this is a crucial factor which will give us superior opportunities in the future.

Richard Wong

I was thrilled to be able to take part in this years Leadership conference. I found it quite moving, sitting and listening to the speakers who were chosen from a wide range of professions, and who had done extremely well in life, with one thing in common; they were either of full or part Chinese descent.

Every speaker had their own personal story to share with us of how they became the people that they are today. Most of them talked about their struggles growing up as a Chinese living in New Zealand, and it made me feel some sort of comfort knowing that it was not only me that dealt with these issues while I was growing up.

During the week I wrote down many success, and motivating quotes from the speakers, with my favourite being “what you can perceive, you can achieve” as I feel that this quote can be applied to many aspects of life.
Mayor Peter Chin was the only South Island speaker, but I felt that he definitely represented us well as he was asked to be the very first speaker for the conference. His speech was all about ‘doing it your way’ and one thing he told us, was that throughout the week we would be listening to a lot of speakers, and not everything will apply to each and every one of us, so we were to take out all the things which we felt were important and try and apply these things to our own lives.

One big thing which I took away from the conference was being able to feel more proud than ever to be a Chinese New Zealander, and that we should not see ourselves as having a disadvantage from the average kiwi, but having an advantage in life, as we are able to experience the best of both worlds.

Karena Sew Hoy

We would like to end with a big thank you to OSCA for financially helping us out with our registrations. We want to make use of the many things which we took away from the Conference; therefore we hope to take up the many opportunities in the present and future to become leaders in activities through OSCA.