National MP Melissa Lee first made her name presenting award-winning television series Asia Downunder. Lee started on the show in 1994 and worked on 600 episodes, a number of them as producer. She became New Zealand's first Korean MP in 2008, and was later named Parliamentary Private Secretary for Ethnic Communities.
It's indeed a great privilege to be able to tell Asian stories on New Zealand television. Melissa Lee
The subjects covered in this Asia Downunder episode range from how pig cells can be used to treat diabetes (Street Talk gets some public feedback on the issue) to the issue of illegal home satellite dishes. Operation Restore Hope's charity work in the Phillipines is examined and there are profiles of a father and daughter team of chefs, and of Asian rock band Infinite Flying Kick. Street Talk asks "are boy racers a menace to society?". Meanwhile in the kitchen Asia Downunder veteran Bharat Jamnadas cooks spicy corn fritters.
This Asia Downunder episode is a half-hour special on Asian religions. Two Muslim brothers are interviewed about their faith, followed by a comparison of the Islamic faith with Christianity. The revival of interest in the Catholic church is explored, then the show visits the sikh temple in Manurewa Sikh. Hinduism and Buddhism also feature, while in the kitchen Geeling Ng (Gloss) rustles up some Chicken in Adobo Sauce.
This Asia Downunder programme explores a sensitive subject for the Asian community: problem gambling. Street Talk takes the issue to the people, to canvas a range of views. Charlie ASH guitarist Mailee Mathews is profiled, as is comedian Jerome Chandrahasen. Asian films in the Film Festival are reviewed, and in the kitchen it's chicken with dried fenugreek leaves. Finally in a touching tribute, Malaysian-born actor Yvonne Tan is interviewed during her final battle with a brain tumour.
The final Asia Downunder for 2006 is a special about the Friends of Fiji Heart Foundation, a team of Kiwi doctors who each year spend two weeks providing life-saving heart operations in Fiji. A number of the team grew up there. The inadequacies of the Fijian health system are touched on, and the effects of poverty on health are examined. A man in the street gives his assessment of how the poor are treated in Fiji, and the Health Minister provides a surprising response.
Presented by future National Party MP Melissa Lee, this Asia Dynamic episode tells the story (discovered by reporter Bharat Jamnadas) of Nalini Chhima, an Auckland-born Indian woman and accomplished classical dancer, who travels to Navsari, India, to prepare for a traditional marriage. Like her parents, Chhima thinks an arranged marriage has a better chance of surviving than a love marriage. This documentary tracks Chhima’s emotional journey, and her desire to please her parents and be true to her culture. Asia Dynamic was later re-named Asia Downunder.
Asia Downunder was a weekly magazine programme for and about the Asian population in New Zealand. The long-running series featured a range of stories from news and issues to profiles, arts, sport, business and travel. Asia Downunder was produced and presented by Korean-born Melissa Lee (later a National Party MP) and a small team of reporters. Asia Downunder began screening on TV ONE in 1994 and ran for 19 seasons, until 2011. Later producers included Chris Wright and Kadambari Gladding.