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Jim Anderton Speech: Pictures at an exhibition

Jim Anderton Speech: Pictures at an exhibition

5:30 pm Tuesday, 4 February 2003 Opening of Giora Dan's cultural diversity photo exhibition The Centre of Contemporary Arts, 66 Gloucester St. Christchurch

One of the calendars in my office outlines the significance of each day of the year.

Today, the fourth of February, is Sri Lanka’s national day.

It is the first national day in Sri Lanka for many years that brings hope of peace, as the outcome of talks brokered by Norway are considered by both the Singhalese majority and the Tamil Tigers.

The war which has raged there since 1983 has cost something like 64,000 lives, created 1 million refugees, destroyed the tourism industry and strangled economic development on the island.

The essence of the conflict has been ethnic and religious. Disputes between the Tamils and Singhalese people and within both groups plunged the country into an extremely bloody conflict. In 1989 more people disappeared in Sri Lanka than in the rest of the world put together.

The breakthrough has been engineered through dialogue.

Both sides have listened to each other and have been prepared to give some ground in an attempt to create a lasting and compassionate peace.

It is through respect and concessions that will see a new federal political system in place and greater respect between these two major cultures.

It is through cultural tolerance and dialogue that we can create a stronger community in New Zealand.

We all came from over the sea to get to New Zealand. Whether by canoe, sailing ship, or aeroplane.

My ancestors came from Ireland.

I am sure many of you could trace your families back to more than one nation.

What we have in New Zealand is a new nation made stronger by the diversity of the communities we have here now.

The pictures in Giora’s exhibition show the beauty of the religious traditions of many of the communities in Christchurch.

We need to encourage the flourishing of the cultures that now make up New Zealand.

We need to do this for two reasons.

The first is that it will make New Zealand a stronger and better place to live.

Secondly we need people. Over the next 20 years 70 million workers are going to leave the OECD workforce.

They will be replaced by only 5 million entrants to the workforce, from the OECD nations themselves.

The average age of the workforce will continue to climb.

The maths are compelling. There will be a serious worldwide shortage of skilled workers.

Immigrants here today will help New Zealand to do better as the workforce ages.

I understand Giora came to New Zealand bringing his many skills and a good education, and had difficulties in finding employment due to his non New Zealand sounding name and his accent.

Such attitudes have to change. Such discrimination has no place in a modern economy or in modern country.

This exhibition and other activities will help to address the discrimination that puts up the barriers to letting us all play our part in making New Zealand everything that it can be.

I commend Giora for his persistence and his talent that we see around the walls here today.

This exhibition by itself enriches all of us and will help us to understand each other better.

Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

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