Topic: Liswan Lim

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Hamilton City Libraries Oral History Programme, Interview with: Mrs Liswan Lim, Accession no: OH100, Date: 23 November 1990. Interviewed by Bill Lovell-Smith as part of the Taking root in a new land Oral history project 1990.

Liswan Lim was born in Penang, on the island of Malaysia she comes from a Chinese cultural background, she lived at home for her first twenty years, a custom, but changing due to pressure for jobs.
The population of Malaysia is made up of Malay, Chinese and Indian, Thus Liswan grew up in a Multi-cultural environment. She was taught in English, now Malay is used in schools. Same Sex schools were the norm. There were six children in Liswans' family. Liswan talks about growing up by the beach, and the lack of sea by Hamilton. Liswan then goes on to talk about her father, a teacher, and school studies. In Malaysia, Islam was the official religion, however minorities were tolerated. It was a Constitutional Monarchy. Liswan talks about voting and the Emerging Malaysian Identity, and the holidays.

Liswan left school at the age of 18, her aspirations were to "Follow the educational ladder", as there is always a demand for it. Qualifications were "A matter of survival", Chinese found entrance to university difficult; Liswan won a place, on marks, into social science. Liswan talks about the Policy of positive discrimination for Malays in upper education, and that Men and Women were equal, if educated. She considered this untrue for New Zealand, and she talks about why. Malaysia has a distinct but accessible class system. Liswan talks about wanting to leave Malaysia, and why.
Liswan originally wanted to go to England at the age of 15, but by the time she was 17 she decided on Australia instead. She applied to go to Perth's university, but it was too expensive, so instead she decided to go to New Zealand. Liswan talks about what she knew of New Zealand and then about her faith, Ba'hai.
Liswan did not have a choice of New Zealand universities; she wanted to do management studies. She was given no information on Hamilton by the New Zealand Government agency; however she was met in Hamilton by some supportive Ba'hai friends.

Liswan talks about leaving Malaysia, and missing her family, she wanted to do town planning after early lectures, but feared failure.

Liswan talks about her first impressions of New Zealand, Mangere "A flat and small city. She went up to One Tree Hill "What Traffic?". Flight to Hamilton "Beautiful", Prior knowledge of Hamilton "Everything shuts at five!". It took her time to adjust to this, a foreign student, strange life, out-of-the-water and no family here. She Flatted, cooked her "Home" food and put on 20 lbs in the first year, due to needing less food in New Zealand than the Tropics.
In her second year she move into Teachers College hostel - "great fun". Went back home after two years to visit, she worked hard to get her fare. She had to go back after three years, but chose to return to New Zealand. Liswan talks about why she went back.

Liswan talks about what New Zealanders knew about Malaya, they're shy about asking. Liswan then talks about Procedures for staying on in New Zealand, she was rejected the first time, so she appealed, Liswan gave her, and her husband James', reasons. They had a Ba'hai marriage ceremony and had two children. She talks about her children's upbringing and her parents visiting and the aspects of her culture in the home. She wanted he children to have Chinese names.
Liswan talks about Job mobility in New Zealand, she is able to stay at home and raise the children, not customary in Malaya. She talks about her views on Motherhood, children's school and her plans for her children. "Everyone should have the opportunity to be educated".

Liswan Lim - Oral history


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Complete recording available on Level 3 of the Garden Place Library.

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Liswan Lim


First Names:Liswan
Last Name:Lim