• Howick and Pakuranga Times
KNOWLEDGE of important people in New Zealand’s history is spreading quickly into the world of Chinese language users.
Ms Lam includes detailed biographies of 12 Chinese settlers, Chew Chong, Tong Shing Young, David Wong Hop, Lily Lee, Jaky Or, Kit Wong, Gary Lai, Jesse Nguy, Jenny Wang, Tina Lee, Jennifer Yau and Maggie Chen.
The tales of six Maori are told, including those of Sir James Carroll, Sir Apirana Ngata, Dr Maui Pomare, Sir Peter Buck, Dame Whina Cooper and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
The famous Kiwis of European ancestry featured in the book are Captain James Cook, Kate Sheppard, Sir Truby King, Rewi Alley and Iris Wilkinson.
Ms Lam, a Hong Kong immigrant who arrived with her family in 1990, was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for Public Services (QSM) earlier this year and describes herself as ‘Chiwi’.
She says her hope for Famous New Zealanders is “to share the stories of some successful Maori and European people as well as the unforgettable experiences and hardships of her fellow new migrants with both Chinese and English readers”.
Ms Lam didn’t know English when she arrived in New Zealand. She’s now a bilingual school facilitator at TEAM Solutions at the University of Auckland. Her latest literary effort was motivated by her respected mentor, Helen Higgott, a senior lecturer and speech language therapist at the tertiary institution.
“Readers will be impressed by the obstacles some of these people have overcome on their journeys to success in this country,” says Ms Higgott, of the Chinese immigrant stories.
“New Zealand has been enriched by these people and it’s thanks to Song Lam and her contacts that more New Zealanders can now share in this knowledge.
“While reading the English text, I have realised how little I knew of the contribution made to New Zealand by settlers such as Chew Chong of Taranaki, who developed the Muer export industry in the 1870s and later established a butter factory with one of the earliest refrigeration units in Eltham.”
Ms Higgott adds with pride that Ms Lam has just completed three certificates of proficiency in Te Reo Maori. Ms Lam’s Maori name is Waiata.
A former chairwoman of the Chinese Writers Association of NZ, Ms Lam has previously penned The Maori in NZ (1998), What Do Children Learn in NZ Schools (1999) and My New Life in NZ (2001).
Famous New Zealanders is like her earlier books, a family affair, with 18 year-old son Yick Wong again the designer. It’s being published in Hong Kong and will be officially launched here in September.
Ms Lam continues to work voluntarily for the Eastern and Manukau Free Language Corners, education nests she founded in 1996. She’s also a member of the Manukau Institute of Technology’s Chinese Community Advisory Group and a trustee of the Chinese Conservation Education Trust.
At the end of her forward in Famous New Zealanders, Ms Higgott writes a Maori language statement which aptly describes Ms Lam’s attitude, ambition and determination.
‘Whaaia te maatauranga hei orange moo loutou – seek after knowledge for the sake of your well-being.’