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History of Go Bananas Conference

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In recent years the Auckland Branch has conducted several “Bananas Conferences” which not only define the place of Chinese in New Zealand, but also shows the way that what more could be achieved.

  The details of these events are set out in Kai Luey’s reports below:

 According to the audience survey forms, the sessions most enjoyed by attendees were: “Reshaping Multiculturalism”, “High Flying Bananas” and “Falling Leaves Return Home”.

 Renée Liang won the inaugural The Listener/New Zealand Chinese Association Short Story Competition for “The Stove” which tells how a woman discovers some truths about her family and herself while cleaning her parents’ old house. This beautifully crafted short story is available from the Short Story Competition link above. Stories from the joint runners up are also located there.

 Initially, it was thought that this global conference would be the last hurrah, but in November 2007, Professor Manying Ip, a core member of the Organising Committee, suggested that NZCA jointly host a further Banana conference with ISSCO (International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas) for which Manying was a foundation member when it was established in 1992. ISSCO is a collective of international scholars whose works push the boundaries of Chinese migration and diasporic studies with members from all continents and which hold annual international or regional conferences each year.

 The Organising Committee unanimously agreed that having a joint conference would give worldwide exposure to NZCA, the “Banana” brand and Chinese NZers, and in return we would get valuable information about Chinese diaspora experiences in other countries. The first committee meeting was held in June 2008 to provide a full year to arrange the logistics of integrating community sessions which has proved very popular at previous Banana events with breakout sessions for ISSCO academic papers and having several combined plenary sessions on topics of universal interest..

 The “Rising Dragons, Soaring Bananas International Conference” held at University of Auckland Business School on 18 & 19 July 2009 was another successful event attended by 320 persons with about 40 international speakers and participants, with the integrated concept proceeding without any dramas. A short story competition was again held in conjunction with the conference. The programme for the conference is attached and the following report was written by one of the attendees.

 Rising Dragons, Soaring Bananas – International Conference

18 & 19 July 2009 ,Bevan Chuang

 The 4th ‘Going Bananas’ Conference was held at the University of Auckland Business School this year and attracted excellent interest from the general public as well as the media. The conference was organised by the New Zealand Chinese Association Auckland Inc. in conjunction with International Society for the Studies of Chinese Overseas.

 Honourable Pansy Wong, Minister of Ethnic Affairs and Minister of Women’s Affairs spoke at the opening reception. Wong, the first Chinese in a ministerial position in New Zealand, set a great example for the Chinese community. Wong presented to the New Zealand public that ethnicity and gender should not hinder one’s success and motivation, but an attribute. Her ‘Chinese-ness’, her humbleness, hardworking traits enabled her to succeed and speak out on behalf of the minority groups (of ethnic or of women).

 It was a privilege to hear the presentation by Ms Libby Wong, previously Director of Social Welfare, and Secretary for Health & Welfare and member of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong. Wong highlighted the importance of that Overseas Chinese were indeed, like the phonetic sound in Chinese, huaqiao, the bridge between China and the rest of the world. A trait that should be well utilised under the globalisation.

 Mai Chen, Xioaying Fu, Don Ha reminded us the struggle Chinese will always face. People of ethnic descent will always face barriers and stigmas by the mainstream society. These challenges should make us stronger and better.

 It was interesting to hear about the Overseas Chinese in other parts of the world, such as Canada, Japan and Equatorial Guinea, and the similarities and differences compare to Chinese in New Zealand. Despite geographical differences, Overseas Chinese behave differently depending on the time of arrival. The similarities reminded policy and social workers that Chinese should not be dealt with as a homogenous group.

 The organising of the Going Bananas events has certainly been a long but incredible journey for the core members of the Organising Committee viz Kai Luey (Chairman), Virginia Chong, Meilin Chong, Wong Liu Shueng, Alistair Kwun, Vivian Chow, Susan Wong, Manying Ip & Arthur Loo with assistance for various conferences from Helene Wong, Theresa Graham, Tony Chuah, Ye Miao, David Wong, Charlie Gao & Sally Liu.

 However, the achievements made in the events can live on through the www.goingbananas.org.nz website which still features the programme, speakers and papers of all four Going Bananas events.

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