Bernadine Lim was nine months old when her ethnic Chinese parents moved from Malaysia to New Zealand, in 1975. Her father was a doctor, her mother a singer. Growing up in Bell Block, a town near New Plymouth, she was the only Chinese person at her school. At age nine she began honing her production skills, making a music video on her family's kiwifruit farm for Fleetwood Mac hit 'Little Lies'.
Lim's parents hoped she'd study law. Instead she chose television, completing a communications degree (majoring in television) at Auckland University of Technology. Her first job was editing for 3 News at TV3. In this period she met art forger CF Goldie, who had changed his name by deed poll to that of the legendary artist. After persuading him to do an interview, she got the story. "It landed me a Qantas Media Award, and a job as a reporter". Aside from her work for 3 News and Nightline, Lim reported for Asia Downunder, and co-hosted and co-directed TVNZ ski show Shred.
In the early 2000s, Lim got extremely busy directing and producing. One of her first projects was lifestyle series My House My Castle. She also directed on a wide range of reality shows, helmed 2003 documentary Face Value (about how appearances affect our levels of happiness), and was part of the production team on New Zealand Idol. She was series director for Park Rangers (where her crew managed to capture footage of a rare kākāpō within one hour, which a BBC crew had spent a month trying to film) and joined fellow director Dean Cornish for Road to Athens, which followed the fortunes of 10 Kiwi Olympic hopefuls over two years.
In 2006, Lim took on the challenging and "cathartic" experience of presenting Here to Stay - The Chinese, where she touched on her experiences growing up Chinese in New Zealand. That year she moved to London. Her jobs included being a creative producer of promos for pay TV company British Sky Broadcasting, and series producing BBC World's Third Eye (2010). The series took the pulse of how people in developing countries felt about the state of their particular nation.
Lim shifted to Australia in 2014, originally intending to stay for a year. As of 2020, she was still in Sydney. Arguably Lim's most acclaimed work has been done in Australia. She was series director for SBS documentary Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta, which traced the history of Vietnamese refugees in an outer Sydney suburb; her work was nominated for Best Direction in a Documentary, at the Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts Awards.
Since then Lim has commissioned over 100 documentaries for Dateline, an award-winning Australian current affairs programme. During her five years on the SBS show, she did a short stint as supervising producer before becoming executive producer. Some of her favourite Dateline stories include 'My 93-Year-Old Flatmate' (2016), which won 12 million plus views on YouTube, and 'Myanmar's Killing Fields' (2018), whose awards haul includes a BAFTA and a Walkley journalism award.
Since late 2018, Lim has been Head of Documentary at Screen Australia, the key government funding body for Australia's screen industry. The job offers her "a unique helicopter view of the sector, which I find both fascinating and frightening as the industry morphs at great pace."
Profile written by Natasha Harris; published on 24 January 2020
Bernadine Lim, 'The Chinese - Bernadine Lim' TVNZ website. Loaded 2007. Accessed 24 January 2020
Unknown writer, 'Shredding the news' - The Dominion Post, (TV Week pullout), 4 July 2000, page 7
'Bernadine Lim Appointed Head of Documentary at Screen Australia' (Press release). Screen Australia website. Loaded 24 September 2018. Accessed 24 January 2020