Wen Powles

Director, Office of Ethnic Communities

Wen has worked in the New Zealand public sector for over 30 years. She has held senior positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In Wellington, she worked on a range of international relationships including with India and the United States, and held diplomatic roles overseas in Beijing, the New Zealand Mission to the United Nations in New York, and Shanghai where Wen was the New Zealand Consul General (2006-2008). In 2012-2014 Wen was the International Strategy Adviser at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. There she led the organisation of exchanges with China, including of the iconic exhibition Kura Pounamu, and also engaged with institutions in other parts of Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East. Prior to joining the Office of Ethnic Communities in May, Wen was the Director of the Confucius Institute at Victoria University of Wellington. She and her team established collaborative language and cultural projects with Chinese universities, schools around New Zealand, teachers, musicians, composers, writers and scholars.

Wen came to New Zealand from Malaysia in 1975 to study at Victoria University. She has made Aotearoa her home since then. Her husband Michael, also a former diplomat, and daughter Nina are both writers. They enjoy beach life with their extended whanau and chocolate Lab Toby and making visits back to Asia to see family and friends. Wen loves the arts (and still wishes she could be a jazz pianist) and is a Research Associate at Victoria University of Wellington’s Museum and Heritage Studies Department.