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When do I become a Kiwi?


8 May 2008

When do I become a Kiwi?

Research examining how new migrants integrate into New Zealand society shows that becoming a Kiwi and retaining an ethnic identity are not mutually exclusive.

“Participants used a range of labels to describe themselves, such as a hyphenated identity like ChineseNew Zealander or a national label such as Kiwi – but their choice of label didn’t necessarily relate to how they integrated into New Zealand society,” says Psychology honours graduate Sally Robertson.

“If someone called themselves a Kiwi it didn’t mean they had lost their ethnic identity – often it was still important to them to keep that. In turn, someone who used an ethnic label may still have adopted some New Zealand behaviours or ideas as well."

Ms Robertson carried out ten indepth interviews with Wellingtonbased migrants who had spent more than five years in New Zealand. The study was a collaboration between Victoria University’s Centre for Applied CrossCultural Research and the New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils.

Associate Professor James Liu, Deputy Director of the centre and Ms Robertson’s supervisor, says the findings cannot be applied to all migrants in New Zealand but tell individual stories that will contribute to greater understanding of how people integrate into New Zealand, and set the stage for a more comprehensive study.

“Sally’s research confirmed that there is no one way to become a Kiwi and that integration is gradual process. And like many New Zealanders, participants all had different ideas on what being a Kiwi means."

Participants in the study had some suggestions for new migrants such as mixing with other New Zealanders, getting involved in the community, allowing time to adjust, and becoming competent in English.

They also advised that joining ethnic social groups in New Zealand and sharing values with family members were ways to maintain their culture in a new country.

President of the New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils (NZFEC), Pancha Narayanan, says identity was recognised by ethnic community groups as a topic needing further research.

“This project is a good example of how academic research, when jointly undertaken with community groups, can provide immediate guidance and benefit to a community."


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