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Ten Steps to Strengthen Our Cultural Diversity

Ten Steps to Strengthen Our Cultural Diversity

From the Forum at Parliament, 24 August, 2004

Following the desecration of two Jewish cemeteries in Wellington in July and August 2004, the New Zealand Parliament unanimously passed a resolution deploring these acts, recalling the terrible history of anti-Semitism culminating in the holocaust, and expressing unequivocal condemnation of anti-Semitism and all forms of racial and ethnic hatred, persecution and discrimination.

A statement signed by Maori, Pakeha, Pacific, Asian and other ethnic community leaders, religious leaders, mayors and councillors, business and trade union leaders and community groups was tabled in the House supporting the resolution.

In the wake of the parliamentary resolution, writers James and Helen McNeish issued a call to action to all New Zealanders, and the Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, approved a public meeting on Parliament’s forecourt on 24 August. It was addressed by former Governor General Sir Paul Reeves, Ethnic Affairs Minister Hon Chris Carter, Dr Ngatata Love of the Wellington Tenths Trust, Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner, Wellington College principal Roger Moses, James McNeish and a group of Wellington young people.

The Speaker also invited community representatives to a forum on the way forward for racial harmony in the Beehive, Parliament’s Executive Wing, following the public meeting. Chaired by Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey and Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, and addressed by Professor Paul Morris of Victoria University, the forum of 250 people heard the ideas that had been put forward by participants before the meeting, raised further suggestions, and unanimously endorsed the outline of the action plan set out below.

A further forum will be held on the anniversary of the first, in August 2005, to review progress.

Ten Steps to Strengthen Our Cultural Diversity

Develop a Network

There are many people and organisations that share a vision and a concern for harmonious relationships in a diverse and inclusive New Zealand. To increase their effectiveness, share their experience and provide mutual support, they need to be connected, informed and recognised. A combined network of people and organisations will help to achieve this.

Establish a Forum

The internet provides a cost-effective means to give people access to an ongoing forum for the exchange of ideas and to a rich source of information. An electronic forum, information pages and a web-portal to new and existing sites about New Zealand’s diverse communities will be an important resource to support public awareness.

Create a Centre

There is an ongoing need for research, education, information resources and advocacy on cultural diversity. While there are many researchers spread through our educational and research institutions, there is no recognised national centre for the study and promotion of cultural diversity. A New Zealand diversity centre or institute that is able to lead research, inform debate, and connect people in different institutions and organisations would make a major contribution.

Conduct a Conversation

Public debate on race relations, the Treaty of Waitangi, measures to achieve equality, our national identity, hate speech and the fragility of our human rights in the absence of a written constitution have led to the call for a process to address these issues. A structured public conversation about our constitutional, legislative and institutional framework to protect human rights including diversity is required, whether it is through a commission of enquiry, parliamentary select committee enquiries or other means.

Focus on Education and Youth

Our children are our future. Schools have a vital role to play in educating our youth on diversity and tolerance, through the formal curriculum, school activities, and programmes to combat bullying, harassment and racism. A review and reform of the school curriculum to ensure that civics, values, languages, histories and cultures are part of the core curriculum and that there are high quality resources to support it is an investment in our future.

Foster diversity in the media

Much of what we learn about others is from the media. By the competitive nature of television, radio and print media the focus is often on the spectacular or the sensational, and there is a risk that the media will feed stereotyping and prejudice. Our media need to reflect and promote the diversity of our society, both through greater diversity in the mainstream media and through the strengthening of Maori, Pacific and other ethnic media to give voice to all New Zealanders. Journalist recruitment and training should support this purpose, and good practice should be recognised.

Support the successful settlement of refugees and migrants

Arrival in New Zealand is not the end of the migration process, it is the beginning. The first phase of a national refugee and migrant settlement strategy has recently been announced, and this needs to be followed by settlement plans for every local area. Settlement plans developed by local authorities in conjunction with iwi, migrant, community and business groups, as well as health, education, police and other government service providers, will provide the basis for successful settlement of migrants including acceptance by the local community.

Celebrate diversity

The celebration of our diversity enables us to reach out to one another, to appreciate each other, and to value our diverse cultures and communities. There are many such celebrations already – Waitangi Day, Pasifika, Race Relations Day, Matariki, St Patrick’s Day, the Chinese New Year, Diwali, and other religious, cultural and national days. Cultural diversity through the arts is another important form of celebration. Increased central and local government support for communities, artists and performers will strengthen our diversity and enrich our society.

Connect with our heritage

New Zealand is rich in natural and cultural heritage, and connecting with our heritage through conservation and enjoyment is an important component of developing our national identity and sense of belonging. Supporting the involvement of ethnic communities in historic, cultural and natural conservation provides an opportunity to put down roots, contribute to our environment, and to connect to the heritage of all New Zealanders. We need to tell our diverse stories about our land and our history in New Zealand.

Promote dialogue

Information and education alone is not enough. People need to meet face to face, experience diversity and discuss issues with people who differ. Communities need to reach out to each other. Dialogue and exchange between people of different views, cultures and faiths is the glue that will hold us together and enrich us all.

Ten Key Actors

Human Rights Commission/Race Relations Commissioner

The Human Rights Commission and the Race Relations Commissioner have the mandate to advance the achievement of these actions, through advocacy, facilitation and partnerships. The Ten Key Steps will be considered by the Commission for incorporation into the consultation process for developing the New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights, which is due to be completed by the end of 2004. The Race Relations Commissioner will facilitate the establishment of working groups and forums to address the Key Steps, and work with central and local government and community organisations, and with the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO which has an existing programme to promote cultural diversity, as well as other Commissions and Crown Entities such as the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the Families Commission, the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner, the Maori Language Commission, the Historic Places Trust, NZ on Air, and Creative New Zealand.


Government agencies already have a wide range of policies and strategies to promote cultural diversity and harmonious relations. The key is to achieve greater coordination between agencies and connection to local government and community organisations. Key agencies include Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, the Office of Ethnic Affairs, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Department of Conservation, the Police, the Immigration Service, the Ministry for Social Development and the State Services Commission.

Local Government

Territorial local authorities (regional, city and district councils) are required to have community plans, and to provide for economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing. They form a crucial link between central government and local communities and have a key role in fostering safe, connected and diverse communities. A particular focus is to develop refugee and migrant settlement plans, provide opportunities and support to celebrate diversity, connect with heritage and promote dialogue.

Education providers

Our schools provide the education for our children. The curriculum needs to provide them with a knowledge and understanding of our diverse history, our unique Maori language and culture, the other languages and cultures of our many peoples, an understanding of the wrongs of discrimination, and the skills to relate to and value other New Zealand children who are different to themselves. Schools can provide programmes and policies to prevent harassment, bullying and discrimination. The Ministry of Education can support schools in these endeavours.

Tertiary institutions can play a key role in research and teaching, as well as creating environments where all students feel safe and supported and where diversity is promoted and celebrated. They have a key role in providing opportunities for ongoing learning about diversity.

Many voluntary organisations also conduct education and dialogue programmes.

Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Community Organisations

There are many organisations that represent our various Maori, Pacific and ethnic communities. Apart from their important role in nurturing their own culture and sense of identity, they can reach out to the wider community to share their culture and to promote mutual understanding. Organisations like ethnic councils have an important role in bringing different communities together.

Business and Trade Unions

There are many barriers to diversity in the workplace, including barriers to entry and promotion, and various forms of prejudice, harassment and intolerance. Employers and unions can work to eliminate barriers, to create a safe and positive work environment and to draw on the rich resource that a diverse workforce represents for a successful business. The growth of Maori, Pacific and other ethnic business enterprise can also be supported. The tourism industry has a strong interest in fostering host community that is internationally connected and values diversity.


The mainstream media play a vital role in communicating us to ourselves. They can ensure that they have a diverse staff, who understand and are connected to their communities, and they can broaden their coverage to ensure that we learn more about each other. The demographics of their market are changing with an increased Maori, Pacific, Asian and other ethnic community audience, who want to see themselves portrayed fairly and equally. Maori, Pacific and ethnic media have an important role to play in fostering their own languages and culture, and in reflecting and interpreting New Zealand’s other cultures and communities to their audiences.

Religious Institutions

Religious institutions can foster inter-faith dialogue and understanding, and promote the values of tolerance, equality and cultural diversity.

Arts, culture and heritage organisations

Arts and culture organisations can foster cultural diversity by ensuring that they support both individual creative artists and communities that practice their culture and provide access by all communities to the diversity of our arts and culture. They can foster both cultural expression and cultural exchange. Heritage organisations can ensure that equal access is given to people of all communities to our natural and historic heritage, and that they all have opportunities to participate in conservation. They can help to tell our stories about our connection to the landscape and about our diverse histories in New Zealand.

People Who Care

There are many thousands of New Zealanders who care enough about these issues to want to do something about them. They can be supported through the development of networks, a website, the dissemination of information and ideas, recognition of their efforts and assistance from community and government organisations. They can be given support in challenging stereotypes and prejudice, and in equipping their children for a more diverse future.

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