Elder Speech To ederation of Ethnic Councils' AGM
Minister of Internal Affairs
Hon Jack Elder
New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils' AGM and 10th Anniversary celebration Grand Hal, Parliamentl
6.30pm 11 June, 1999
My Parliamentary colleagues, distinguished
guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a great honour for me to join you this evening on this historic occasion as you celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Federation of Ethnic Councils.
Firstly I would like to congratulate the current President of the Federation, Dr Ashraf Choudhary on his outstanding contribution to this organisation and what it stands for.
I believe that Dr Choudhary and the past Presidents of the Federation have provided critical leadership to the organisation over the last ten years.
I would also like to acknowledge all the other office holders and members of the Federation who have worked so hard to ensure the Federation's success.
I am also aware that officials from the non-governmental sector along with officials from my department and other key government departments, have worked in a dedicated and flexible way to provide services to ethnic communities throughout New Zealand.
I am convinced that cultural diversity is a fundamental social and economic asset for our country. I believe that there is a need for an organisation like the Federation to provide new thinking around the promotion and protection of cultural diversity here in New Zealand.
With more than 400,000 members of ethnic communities now living in New Zealand, this need has become a pressing one.
Since its inception the Federation has helped many small ethnic groups in New Zealand to organise themselves to effectively represent their communities. These groups have, in turn, joined the Regional Ethnic Councils. This is an area of significant growth. A few years ago there were just five Regional Ethnic Councils but this number has now grown to 13 councils covering almost every major area of New Zealand. This is no mean feat for an organisation that relies mainly on volunteers and I congratulate you.
Naturally, a growing organisation needs resources. Establishing reliable funding for the organisation is taking time. However, in the meantime, I have been prepared to help out. The Federation has already been advised that I have approved a lottery grant of $75,000 from the Minister of Internal Affairs' Discretionary Fund. The money is to be used to fund an executive officer's salary and office expenses.
I now want to acknowledge an early major achievement for the Federation. In June 1990 the Federation organised its first Conference. This conference brought together representatives and leaders of the many different ethnic groups for the first time in New Zealand.
It gave these community representatives the opportunity to contribute to the development of a vision of New Zealand's future as a multi-ethnic society.
It provided the opportunity to participate in the national debate over the relationship between that vision of multiculturalism and the Treaty of Waitangi. The debate on the relationship between multiculturalism and biculturalism in New Zealand now centres on how we can build a New Zealand identity which embraces new ethnic cultures while acknowledging Maori as the Tangata Whenua of Aotearoa.
At the same conference in 1990 the Federation lobbied government for a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs.
In response to this call, a proposal was put to Cabinet that resulted in the establishment of an Ethnic Affairs Service in the Department of Internal Affairs in April 1992.
The establishment of this service endorses the fact that New Zealand is a multi-ethnic society, in which Maori, as Tangata Whenua, have a unique position.
The Service has a mandate to focus on the needs and issues facing New Zealanders other than Maori, Pakeha and Pacific Island.
Since that first conference 10 years ago, the Federation has organised three successful conferences that have all attracted a wide range of delegates.
After your last conference in 1997 I was happy to be asked to launch the book "People, People, People" which includes a record of the conference proceedings.
This book is a valuable resource to policy makers and those interested in the issues that relate to the growing ethnic sector.
As conference convenor Rolf Panny puts it, the proceedings of that conference reflected the aspirations of a sizeable group of people who have made New Zealand their home.
The Government needs to hear, and take account of those aspirations in order to forge a path into the future in partnership with our ethnic communities.
I am pleased to mention here the excellent working relationship that has developed between the Ethnic Affairs Service and your Federation.
I would like end by highlighting another initiative that my department is currently developing that should further strengthen the role of ethnic communities in New Zealand.
This initiative is the development of an Ethnic Policy Framework.
The objective of this project is to form a framework of values and principles to aid the development and evaluation of Government policy that impacts on ethnic people in New Zealand.
This is happening because of the growing ethnic diversity of New Zealand, the opportunities and issues presented by the ethnic diversity within a bicultural context and the wish of the government to have an overarching framework for policies and programmes that make it easier for migrants to settle in New Zealand.
I am confident that with my department working together with other Government agencies such as: immigration, social welfare, health, education and your organisation we are capable of improving the process of national policy-making.
It heartens me to see the level of commitment that the Federation has shown to making New Zealand a better place in which to live for all New Zealanders. It has also undertaken practical initiatives aimed particularly at members of ethnic communities.
Thank you for coming.
I would now like to propose a toast to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils.