My Personal Life Journey - Kai Luey
There have been many labels for the NZ born Chinese of my generation from “Ching Chong Chinaman” during my schooldays, to “Model Minority” during my working career, and then to “the Old Generation” as we try to lead the debate on our identity and the role of Chinese NZers in the 21st century. This is a major theme of our upcoming “Bananas NZ Going Global” International Conference on 18/19 August 2007 in Auckland. Please refer to www.goingbananas.org.nz for more details.
I was born in Westport and brought up in Wellington / Lower Hutt. My parents migrated from the Guangzhou area of China in the early 1900's and since we were unwanted aliens they operated a family fruit shop business at various locations. Because of this situation, we were actively discouraged from fraternizing with our Kiwi school mates and spent all our spare time after school, on weekends and during school holidays helping in the family shop. Also, most of the time our family were the only Chinese at the local school. Therefore, as a youth I often felt isolated and at times hated my Chinese origins.
I graduated from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor if Engineering (Electrical) degree with First Class Honours in 1965. Thereafter I spent over 30 years as an engineer and manager in the electricity supply industry with the NZ Electricity Department and various multinational public companies both in New Zealand and overseas. For the last 17 years of my corporate employment, I was General Manager and Managing Director of companies within the Morgan Dulmison Group based in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand and a Director for the operations in India and Malaysia.
During my working career in New Zealand, I found that progression in both public and private sectors was very difficult and frustrating for a person of Chinese ethnicity. I felt I needed to prove to management that my performance, abilities and enthusiasm were far superior to those of my contemporaries to even get the promotions that I gained. Hence, I emigrated with my wife and two children to Sydney, Australia at the age of 38 to advance my career opportunities and was appointed as General Manager of a large company within 4 years. Thereafter my executive management career thrived in the international environment until the inevitable corporate takeover of the Group in 1999.
In terms of my community work, I was heavily involved in Chinese sports for many years. Since my return from overseas employment I have become a leader in Chinese community affairs in Auckland and also on a national basis including the Poll Tax settlement issues and becoming National President of NZ Chinese Assn. For this community work I was awarded the Queen's Service Medal (QSM) in the 2005 New Year Honour List.
My advice to my two children who are both University graduates and to all other Chinese youths is to be proud of your Chinese heritage and to value education, moral values and family traditions. With the trend towards global economies and the emergence of China as a major world power, the opportunities for your true worth to be developed and recognised has never been better.