Asia Downunder TV Series


NameAsia Downunder
Also known asAsia Dynamic
No. of Seasons19
PresenterMelissa Lee, Kadambari Gladding (Kadambari Raghukumar)
Asia Vision (Melissa Lee and Robin Kingsley-Smith)


Asia Downunder was a weekly television show that ran for 19 seasons, airing from 1994 to 2011. It launched as Asia Dynamic in 1994 and was retitled Asia Downunder in 1999. The show screened on Sunday mornings on TV One (later TVNZ). Billed as a 'magazine-style' show, each 30-minute episode featured segments on arts and culture, profiles of Asian New Zealanders, travel, food and social issues. As well as the magazine-format episodes, around five 30-minute specials were produced each year. These were usually documentaries that focused on a particular issue; an episode looking at arranged marriages won a Japan Prize for Educational Media in 1998.

From 1995 the show was produced by Asia Vision, which was co-owned by the show’s presenter, Melissa Lee (now a National Party list MP), and Robin Kingsley-Smith, who had also worked on the show as a producer. In 2008, Lee said the programme was "about why Asian people do what [they] do, when, where, how and with whom. It isn't just a television programme but a bridge connecting our diverse communities - to promote better understanding."

Annie Murray, writing for NZ On Screen, described how the show served as a training ground: “Any young reporter/directors of Asian descent got a start on ADU. It also attracted the talents of more experienced Asian media professionals. The ADU roll call included the likes of Lynette Forday, Bernadine Lim, Kim Webby, Solina Song, Geeling Ng, and many others.” Lynda Chanwai-Earle also worked as a journalist for Asia Downunder, travelling to the Philippines, China and Hong Kong to research and film segments for the show.

Murray also contextualised the show against the rapidly growing Asian population in New Zealand, which was driven by changes to immigration legislation in the late 1980s. She recalls a segment called ‘Street Talk’, which asked people on the street to respond to questions such as “whether boy racers should be banned” to whether Asian students are safe in New Zealand.

In 2008, Bharat Jamnadas, a journalist on the show, said:

Our stories reflected on who the Asians were and how they felt. We told many stories which were picked up from stories in the mainstream media and in the course of telling them gave a cultural context. Our stories were told with a different perspective. It gave the Asian community a chance to voice their feelings and needs on various issues that affected their lives in New Zealand society. The community rarely had seen themselves on TV unless there was a body in a bag floating in the harbour or when some dairy owner was shot dead. It enabled Asian people to tell Asian stories not only to Asian people but to the wider community.

In later years, Asia Downunder was syndicated by other regional channels, and from 2008 was played in Queensland Australia. In April 2011, TVNZ made the decision not to renew the show.


Last updated: 1 March 2024 Suggest an Edit


'Media diversity: The challenge of 'doing it better', Pacific Journalism Review 15 (1), 2009

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'Asia Downunder: New Season', Throng, February 20, 2008

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