Race Relations Day celebrations and speech

Learner Stories

Sun Lyoung Kim gave a keynote address at our regions’ 2017 event.

Ms Kim spoke on the 2017 Race Relations Day theme of ‘That’s us: What do we stand for? What do we stand against?’. The address was built on Ms Kim’s 20 years in Whangarei and some of the experiences, both positive and negative that she has faced.

We are proud to share with you the lovely words of our keynote speaker, Sun Lyoung Kim:

Hi everyone,

My name is Sun Lyoung Kim and everybody calls me just Sun. I have been in NZ 21 years this year. I am mother of three children, one has just finished honours, the second child is going to go Uni this July, and just my youngest will remain with me.

I have studied hard, and am eager to teach story writing – writing in English, which is my second language.

I have published a few children’s stories in the School Journal, including the CSI project (for Digital education resources) and I wrote a column for a few years in a Korean newspaper about New Zealand education.

My most recently published work is a book review published in last month’s Listener about ‘Pachinco’ a book written by Korean born Author Min Jin Lee.

One of my proudest writing achievements was to win the short story competition in 2016, held by the Northland Society of Authors.

As a supplementary prize I went to Writer’s Festival in Auckland. That was the one of the wonderful experienced I have ever done. I attended some of sessions that I wanted to and I’ve learnt a lot of things from the sessions about writing.

One of the sessions was held by Helen Wong who was born in New Zealand as Chinese and she talked about her book ‘Being Chinese’ and the experiences when she was a child.

I will read it some part, ……..

”That was the routine of my comfortable fifties middle-class world as a typical Marmite, Weetbix, school milk and Chesdale cheese suburban kid.

But not quite.

“Hey, Ching Chong!’

The first time I heard the taunts, I was walking home from school, lost in the bliss of a Jelly Tip, I was jerked out of reverie into shock. I looked around to see a group of boys in short pants and bare feet, jeering and sniggering from a safe distance, and I put my head down and walked home more quickly.

‘Chink!Chow! Wing Wong!Flat-nose!Slit-eyes!

Everybody laughed in Helen’s session, but not me because that words stirred up all my bad experiences in NZ.

So – What do we need to stand for? We need to stand for our identity. Yes, we are different and it won’t change. Some people label us as an immigrant, an Asian, or a non-English speaker, but we have our name. We have to tell them we have our own name and we are proudly, very proudly –  New Zealander.

If you go out into New Zealand society, and immerse yourself as one of the community, be aware that as an immigrant there is a higher scrutiny and expectation of you. You have to be a better driver than the average Kiwi, you have to be a harder worker, you have to be politer than the average Kiwi. And then there is also the isolation that comes with looking and sounding different. My daughter who will graduate with Honours this May, applied for a job at one company, and was shocked at one of the rejection comments that came back with her application. The company said her visa status wasn’t acceptable! They never even asked about her citizenship. She has a Kiwi passport, and a Kiwi accent – but an Asian name. They just made an about my daughter (who has a very good CV) – “Asian girl”. But she is strong, and proud of who she is and her achievements, so, she had stood up and spoke out about this problem and got an apology mail from the company.

So, if you meet unequal treatment or racism in our society, at school, at the hospital, in your job, or even from neighbour, you have to stand against it. Racism or unequal treatment is not only just impolite behaviour – it is totally unacceptable in our daily life. By this I mean bullies, workplace illegal treatment – break time, holiday pay, sick leave- and family violence. It is our right as a citizen or resident or visitor to receive fair and just treatment, and to feel safe and unthreatened.

And part of your responsibility to earn the  right to participate as a citizen in NZ, is that you have to  immerse yourself into the local culture – and study, study, study the English language until you can speak it like a local. It will take time but please do not give up and Whangarei English Language Partners and NZ government will support your effort.

We all cannot be same and we have to different and that makes the world goes around.

Lastly, I will read it off a poem, written by an African child was nominated for the best poem of 2005. It will tell you how we are isolated adults.


When I born, I black

When I grow up, I black

When I go in Sun, I black

When I sacred, I black

When I sick, I black

And when I die, I still black

And U white fellows

When U born, U pink

When U grow up, U white

When U go in sun, U red

When U cold, U blue

When U scared U yellow

When U sick U green

When U die U grey

And U call me colored.

On 21 March, English Language Partners Northland, together with Multicultural Whangarei, hosted a special event in their Rathbone Street premises to mark Race Relations Day.

The programme started at midday, and included a welcome by ELP centre manager, Megan Cochrane, an introductory address by Multicultural Whangarei chairperson, Jos Taylor-Colthurst, and a keynote address from Sun Lyoung Kim. Ms Kim spoke on the 2017 Race Relations Day theme of ‘That’s us: This is what we stand for. This is not what we stand for’. The address was built on Ms Kim’s 20 years in Whangarei and some of the experiences, both positive and negative that she has faced.

The formal part of the programme was followed by a karakia, spoken in Mandarin and then a generous shared lunch provided by the 30 plus participants. A range of traditional ethnic plates and ‘shop bought’ food weighed down the tables, where the ELP learners, tutors, special guests, their friends and families, the Multicultural Whangarei visitors and their networks, could mix and mingle.

Special guest Donovan Clark, CEO of Manaia PHO, made an impromptu appeal to all to value their health and to access the medical services provided. The opportunity to practice both new-found and established English language skills was exploited by all, with the conversations and laughter lasting well into the afternoon.

Race Relations Day celebration and speech
Race Relations Day celebration and speech

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