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AUT students receive first RNZ Asia Scholarship [Web Exclusive]


Written by Caeden Tipler (they/them) | @caedentipler | News Editor

Nabeelah Khan Photo Supplied.

Radio New Zealand has announced the winners of their first RNZ Asia scholarship, designed to support students of Asian heritage in journalism, where these voices are often underrepresented. The scholarship is an opportunity for students to work with RNZ, and have a year of their tuition paid for. The recipients of the award, Chenqi (Mavis) Ye (of Chinese descent) and Nabeelah Khan (of Fijian-Indian descent), are both Communications students at AUT. 

The scholarship was created by the RNZ Asia unit and co-funded with NZ On Air. It is part of efforts to increase reporting on the growing Asian communities in Aotearoa. Elliott Samuels, who heads the RNZ Asia unit, told RNZ that its continued success depended on a continual pathway of promising Asian journalists coming into the industry.

Khan said she found out about the award “while scrolling social media” and it was not something her lecturers had promoted - this was a stroke of luck as her interviewer later told her they weren’t planning on promoting the award on social media until a change of heart at the last moment. Although Khan started her Communications degree because she wanted to study something “broad”, she’s had an increasing interest in journalism so she applied. 

As a journalist, Khan asks “How do other communities see us?” She notes the collectivist values of Asian communities and hopes to bring these into Pākehā individualistic societies. She described this to RNZ as a difference in “communication styles” and “collectivist versus individualistic frameworks.”

Khan is excited about the opportunities that could come from winning the award. Part of her interest comes from wanting to tell the stories of her community. She focused a lot on the stories of Asian Communities in her early assignments, as these are the stories she knew best and wanted to tell. For Khan, it’s important newsrooms accurately reflect the country in order to equitably tell their stories. As less than 5% of journalists have Asian heritage in a country where this group makes up 18% of the total population, there is a lot more work to be done. 

For students interested in similar opportunities, Khan says social media is the place to look. She recommends the Instagram accounts @creativejobsnz @panasianscreencollective @proudlyasiantheatre and @thebigideanz which promote a range of opportunities for students of Asian heritage, and students looking for opportunities in Creative industries more broadly.

Although Chenqi Ye was not able to talk to Debate, she told RNZ that it was important to have Chinese journalists telling the stories of Chinese communities. She wrote, “Due to the strict news environment in China, they are not accustomed to seeking help from journalists,” and that it was important to have Chinese journalists to “build connections with them and make them understand the power of media.”

Khan is one of the few students of Asian heritage in her year at AUT. Although they didn’t promote the opportunity, she said her lecturers are immensely proud of her. Hopefully, scholarship opportunities such as this one will open new pathways for current and aspiring Communications students of Asian descent in Aotearoa.


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