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Growing through Diversity


Growing through Diversity


Introduction

Labour recognises there are significant advantages in New Zealand being an inclusive, tolerant and multicultural nation. Ethnic diversity can benefit all spheres of our lives. Increased ethnic diversity also brings challenges.

These include ensuring that ethnic communities have a sense of belonging in New Zealand and can play a part in the decisions that affect their lives, and maintaining our reputation as a peaceful and cohesive country.

New Zealand competes internationally for skilled and talented migrants. These people have the knowledge, experience and connections that are vital for driving and sustaining our economic growth. Migrants also help to build strong and cohesive communities and enrich New Zealand’s cultural and social landscape with new perspectives, energy, colour and vitality.

Meeting the challenges of diversity requires vision, leadership, and collaboration across all sectors of society including government, the private sector, and society as a whole.

Since appointing the first Minister for Ethnic Affairs in 1999, Labour has worked to promote a strong and self-directed ethnic sector. Through the Office of Ethnic Affairs, it has ensured the interests of ethnic communities in decision-making and enhanced access to essential public services through the introduction of Language Line. We have brought the festivals of Diwali and Chinese New Year to Parliament, alongside other traditional holidays.

Today, ethnic New Zealanders are found in all occupations, regions, and walks of life.

It is important that host societies are prepared for the changes that ethnic diversity brings. That contributes to a climate of understanding and helps break down barriers between communities. Similarly, migrants need to be equipped for the changes that they and their families will experience as they settle and integrate into New Zealand society.

We have to draw on international best practice as well as the views and experiences of ethnic New Zealanders to ensure that we have one of the best settlement programmes in the world.

Labour is committed to building on its achievements over the last decade to ensure that New Zealand maximises the strengths and benefits of ethnic diversity, and remains a country of understanding and respect for all of its people.

We will continue to enhance the settlement of new migrants and help all New Zealanders to seize the opportunities a more diverse population brings.

Settlement

Settlement programmes generally do a good job introducing new migrants to the reality of life in New Zealand. However, adapting to life in a new country is always a challenge. A stronger emphasis on programmes that support non-working family members to adapt to life in this country and the inevitable adaptation of their cultural practices will assist new migrants to settle more quickly into life in New Zealand.

Labour will continue to strengthen New Zealand’s settlement policies to ensure they cater to the diverse needs of the range of new New Zealanders settling here.

Knowledge of the history, culture and traditions of ethnic communities resident in New Zealand assists in positive settlement, guards against discrimination and prejudice and enables the benefits of an ethnically diverse society to be available to everyone.

Labour will make information about the experiences, customs and practices of ethnic communities more widely available.

Schools are often the first place that newly settled migrants and other New Zealanders come into contact with each other. International experience has shown that it is particularly important to help the children of migrants to successfully integrate as they can often feel a greater sense of alienation than their parents who have connections in the workforce and with other migrants. Diversity is embodied as a core value in our new school curriculum and it is important that schools are better supported to adapt to the wider range of cultural backgrounds that pupils now come from.

Labour will develop a school liaison function within the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

Supporting Ethnic Communities

Ethnic festivals are now a colourful part of our national life and provide a much appreciated opportunity for all New Zealanders to learn about other cultures. Most festivals rely on the volunteer effort and the fundraising skills of committed community members. In some cities local authorities also partner with ethnic organisations to stage major festivals. Enhancing these partnerships in other centres would enable more New Zealanders to experience Diwali (the Indian festival of lights), Eid (the end of Ramadan), Chinese New Year and other festivals.

Labour will establish a Community Festivals Fund which will assist communities to stage events showcasing their cultures to the wider community.

Almost a quarter of New Zealand’s population (23 per cent in 2006) were born overseas and the composition of our ethnic communities is changing, with Asian Kiwis in particular growing in numbers and as a proportion of overall population. Changes to seasonal employment policies and skill and labour shortages are also seeing growth in ethnic communities in regional New Zealand.
Labour will expand the Office of Ethnic Affairs advisory services to regional communities with growing ethnic populations.

Many new migrants have well established networks in their home countries which New Zealand could better utilise as we seek to develop new international relationships and market opportunities.

Labour will work to use the knowledge and connections members of ethnic communities have with their countries of origin to help enhance New Zealand’s relationships with those countries in trade and cultural matters.

Government services are now more responsive to New Zealand’s growing ethnic diversity. For example, police have appointed ethnic liaison officers, more than 100,000 calls have been handled by the free-to-user telephone interpreting service, Language Line, and the Office of Ethnic Affairs ensures the interests of ethnic communities are taken into account when policy decisions are taken across government. Formalising the somewhat ad hoc contact that now exists between ethnic communities and core government agencies will better ensure connections between citizens and the public service.

Labour will formalise regular consultation involving the Office of Ethnic Affairs, Department of Labour, the Ministry of Social Development and the Police with emerging migrant communities in major urban and provincial centres.

Ends

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