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Indian Cultural Night Independence Celebrations

Indian Cultural Night Independence Celebrations

11 AUGUST 2001

 Tena koutou katoa. It is great to see you all gathered here today for this important occasion.

 Greetings also to the Mayor of Hamilton, Russ Rimmington and to my parliamentary colleagues present.

 Many thanks to Dinesh Patel and the organising committee of the Indian Cultural Society. I know that you have brought together a dynamic and enthusiastic group to organise this and other Indian cultural events.

 I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to share this moment with you, the 54th anniversary of Indian independence.

 In this, the International Year of Volunteers, I want to thank you for your tireless contributions and hard work as volunteers, both for the benefit of your community but also for the wider New Zealand community.

 Voluntary organisations such as the Indian Cultural Society, the Waikato Ethnic Council and the Sikh Society and other Indian organisations play a significant role in long-term cultural maintenance, keeping Indian cultures and identity alive.

 You also contribute strongly to ensuring better settlement outcomes for new arrivals and to improving the general public’s awareness of Indian cultures.

 The enormous contribution that Indian and ethnic communities in general make to New Zealand is vital to our growth and well being as a nation.

 According to the 1996 census, ethnic communities make up approximately 8% of the New Zealand population. Of this, 42,408 Indians (14% of the Ethnic Sector, 1996 Census) have adopted New Zealand as their home (this figure includes 2,970 who described themselves as Indo-Fijian).

 Significantly, there was a 28% increase in the Indian population in New Zealand from 1991 – 1996, that is about 11,800 people. I have no doubt this will change once we get the results of the latest census both for the Indian community and for the ethnic sector in general.

 Given that many Indian migrants have chosen New Zealand as their home over the years, it is important for me to also acknowledge the efforts and dedication of the early settlers to making a new life and contributing to New Zealand society. Your ancestors laid the cornerstones for you and began the process of educating New Zealanders about your cultures.

 Indians have traditionally identified New Zealand as a country to which to migrate to. We have a shared heritage of parliamentary democracy, Commonwealth and sporting ties. And of course our proximity to Fiji is a key factor.

 Reverse migration has produced some interesting results, as we see in the case of John Wright, the coach of the Indian cricket team, though not exactly to the benefit of New Zealand cricket team as we have seen recently.

 I am particularly pleased to see TV3 has hired Rebecca Singh of the Indian community as a news presenter in recognition of her outstanding skills and of the need to reflect New Zealand’s multiracial diversity. Hopefully we will see New Zealand’s ethnic diversity increasingly represented on television in the future.

 I now want to look at how this government is demonstrating a strong commitment to issues of particular importance to your community.

 The devastating earthquake in the State of Gujarat in January provoked a strong response from our government with a contribution of $500,000 towards relief efforts and a further $150,000 in new spending towards earthquake engineering expertise.

 Minister Phil Goff visited Bhuj in the Gujarat to assess the extent of the damage caused by the disaster given New Zealand knowledge and expertise in the area of earthquakes.

 That is a huge contribution to assist disaster relief overseas, reflecting the very urgent humanitarian need and the very close links between New Zealand and India and of course the State of Gujarat.

 I felt this disastrous event particularly strong because many Indian New Zealanders contacted me in my electorate of Manurewa in Manukau City.

 It is important for me to acknowledge the fundraising projects of the Indian community in New Zealand, rallying behind the government to assist with the relief efforts. This is a shining example of just how our government can work in partnership with ethnic communities in New Zealand, the Indian community being a wonderful role model.

 New Zealand and India have traditionally had a close relationship, so it is exciting to see that it is now in a strong growth phase:

 Trade between India and New Zealand is expanding. India is expected to become one of our top 20 trading partners in the near future. Exports totalled over $180 million in the year to December 2000.

 We have seen many visits from Indian delegations this year: the Indian Minister of State for Food Processing Industries, the Indian Minister for Information Technology, and the Minister for External Affairs and Defence.

 There are increasing numbers of Indian students and film crews coming to our country.

 We have appointed two more Honorary Consuls in India – in Mumbai and Bangalore.

 As we now discuss how New Zealand can be part of the new “Knowledge Wave”, we obviously can learn from organisations like the Indian Institute of Sciences in Bangalore.

 I know that Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of the East or the epicentre of India’s hi-tech activity. I wonder if we could establish a “Silicon Valley of the South” in New Zealand learning from the Indian experience? Interestingly, six Indian Information Technology firms now have a presence in New Zealand.

 One of the more enjoyable aspects of getting out in the community is just how much I learn about different cultures and come to appreciate ethnic communities’ issues and concerns.

 This helps me in my vision: that the voices of all cultures and peoples be heard with equal clarity; where no one culture overshadows another; and where pride in one’s culture and strength of identity promotes intercultural respect.

 We have been the first government to establish a portfolio for ethnic affairs. As New Zealand’s first Minister for Ethnic Affairs, I particularly enjoy being an advocate for New Zealand’s many ethnic communities at the Cabinet table.

 By establishing the Office of Ethnic Affairs we acknowledge the need to work closely with ethnic communities and to promote the acceptance and celebration of the diversity of cultures, languages and lifestyles that we have in New Zealand today.

 I know that the Office of Ethnic Affairs Community Advisors have a close relationship with Indian community associations and are working hard to improve outcomes for New Zealand’s ethnic communities. They want to work with you to address key issues facing the Indian community and as well as providing an information and referral service.

 To conclude, as your Minister for Ethnic Affairs I want to re-emphasise that the government wants to acknowledge and confront the needs and concerns of ethnic communities so that you are seen, heard, included and accepted.

 Thank you for inviting me to share this wonderful occasion with you. I look forward with keen interest to the future activities of the Indian Cultural Society and I leave you with this pertinent saying in Maori: Mä ngä huruhuru te manu karere (with feathers the bird can fly)

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