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Hughes: Southeast Asian Night Market

Darren Hughes

16 August, 2008

Address to the Southeast Asian Night Market

Speech notes for Statistics Minister Darren Hughes' address to the Southest Asian Night Market, TSB Bank Arena, Wellington

• Kia ora koutou
• Sawatdi
• Apa kabar
• Ni hao
• Vanakkam
• Magandáng gabi po
• Xin chào
• Assalamu Alaikum

It is my pleasure to be able to speak to you here tonight on behalf of the Prime Minister, Right Honourable Helen Clark, who, although she would have liked to, was unable to attend tonight.

Thank you for this invitation to Government to be here at Wellington’s first Southeast Asian Night Market. I would like to thank the ASEAN diplomatic community for hosting this event in conjunction with the Wellington City Council and the Asia:NZ Foundation.

This is demonstration of some fantastic collaboration from our international community, local government and an organisation funded by central government.

Thank you in particular to the His Excellency Dato’ Sophian Ahmad, the High Commissioner of Malaysia here in Wellington, Her Worship, Kerry Prendergast, and Dr Richard Grant, Director of Asia:NZ Foundation, who welcomed us here.

I want to acknowledge all the distinguished guests here tonight including diplomatic representatives from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, whose languages I have attempted to greet you in tonight.

Through this event, you have shown great leadership and also a strong desire to connect with New Zealand citizens in the hope of increasing understanding of your cultures and also of New Zealanders of diverse Southeast Asian backgrounds.

This Night Market is a great way to us to learn about the cultures of Southeast Asia in particular. Asia is a large region abound with many different cultures, ethnic groups and languages. There are 10 countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which encompasses a large amount of diversity in itself, before we even begin to consider the wider region of Asia.

As the Minister of Statistics it is my job to know that all of the ethnic groups of the 10 Southeast Asian nations are represented in the New Zealand population. According to Census 2006, the people of New Zealand now identify with over 200 ethnic identities.

The demographic landscape of our country is changing and we are becoming more ethnically and culturally diverse than ever before. This presents New Zealanders with the opportunities to connect with the dynamic cultures of the world, here in New Zealand.

Our newfound increasing ethnic diversity presents challenges, but also great benefits for our society. The Prime Minister herself said in the Annual Statement to Parliament in February last year that “A commitment to social cohesion and the willingness to be inclusive across ethnicity, culture, and faith is more important than ever before. It’s critical that all of New Zealand’s peoples benefit from the progress our country makes and have a stake in our society.”

We need to find ways to ensure that the benefits of our newfound diversity are experienced by all people, and that the cultural richness of our society is protected, valued and respected.

Demonstrating and utilising the benefits: social, cultural and economic, of our ethnic diversity, is interrelated with the celebration of our diversity.

The skills, knowledge and creativity of people in our ethnic communities make us an innovative, globally competitive and sustainable economy. We, as a nation, can grow stronger once we truly develop appreciation of our diversity and respect for our differences.

Some of the work this Government has been doing includes the ‘Connecting Diverse Communities’ project led by the Office of Ethnic Affairs and the Ministry of Social Development. The work programme focuses on strengthening intercultural relations, addressing discrimination and promoting respect, improving connections with cultural identity, and community development.

Of course, such efforts are not solely the work of central government and, as the recent consultation of the ‘Connecting Diverse Communities’ project showed, the public also believes that local government and communities have a strong role to play to ensure social cohesion.

As demonstrated by this partnership with the diplomatic community of Wellington and Asia:NZ Foundation, the City Council has made a commitment to our diverse communities and the importance of giving them the opportunity to learn about each other and of celebrating that diversity.

Thank you once again for inviting me to participate in this opening ceremony for Wellington’s first Southeast Asian Night Market, I hope it is the beginning of a Wellington tradition. I encourage Wellingtonians to make the most of this fantastic opportunity, I personally look forward to experiencing some of Southeast Asia’s culture and cuisine here tonight.


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