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On the Bright Side June/Pipiri 2005

Human Rights Commission
Te Kahui Tika Tangata
On the Bright Side
June/Pipiri 2005

Kia ora. Anei te mihi ö te Kaihautu Whakawhanaunga ä Iwi, mo ngä mahi nui, mahi whakamana i te tangata i roto i ngä kaupapa Whakawhanaunga ä Iwi i Aotearoa. Here are this month's acknowledgments from the Race Relations Commissioner for positive contributions to race relations in New Zealand.

Jade Eriksen

For Migrant Nation: We Were Strangers Once. This theatrical work is the product of a diverse group of young New Zealand actors directed by Jade Eriksen, bringing together their own stories, moments in the history of New Zealand's settlement, and current debate on migrant and refugee issues in a moving and thought-provoking dramatic presentation.

The story of how the work was developed provides a fitting finale in the post-play discussion with the cast. Produced on a shoe-string budget but using installation, light, music, song, puppetry, and movement as well as dialogue, the production was first staged at the Tararua Tramping Club Hall in Wellington from 24-27 June and moves to the Benedictine Priory in Auckland from 1-5 July, where Ahmed Zaoui will join the cast.

The play is a Human Rights Foundation sponsored project for the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme. Enquiries and bookings for Auckland can be made by email to migrantnation@gmail.com .

Transit New Zealand

For flying the flag for diversity on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The Samoan flag flew on the top of the Auckland Harbour Bridge on 1 June to mark Samoan National Day, as part of an ongoing programme by Transit New Zealand to acknowledge New Zealand's international connections and the diverse national origins of New Zealanders on their national days. Other flags that have flown from the bridge recently include those of Argentina, Sri Lanka, Panama, Norway, Ireland, the Philippines and Canada. What a cool idea.

Mercury Energy Ltd

For providing Maori, Chinese and Korean language options on the company's website, June 2005. Mercury is a major Auckland based energy retailer, and while updating its website this month it has added Maori, Chinese and Korean options for its customers. Yet another case of a major business breaking out of the monolingual mode to recognize the diversity of its customers. See their website at www.mercury.co.nz and click on Nau Mai. This month's Maori Language Week (July 25-31) is an opportunity to do something in your own organisation. There will be a further "Give It A Go" booklet (on the theme of kai this year) and other resources to help you. For more information visit www.nzreo.org.nz ).

Ian Waite, Les Mills Auckland

For a bi-lingual work-out programme. Another way of participating in Maori Language Week would be to check out pump instructor Ian Waite's class at Les Mills in Auckland. His class is practically bi-lingual, he uses lots of Maori words and translates as he goes along, so you get a work out and a reo Maori lesson at the same time, sometimes backed up by a haka on the sound system.

Radio New Zealand

For broadcasting the winning speeches from the 2005 Race Unity speech contest. Back in March, over 100 contestants from secondary schools throughout New Zealand competed in a speech contest organised by the Bahai community and the Hedi Moani Trust for Race Relations Day. Six finalists presented their speeches at a race unity youth forum in Auckland at the beginning of April. Now each of the finalists has been interviewed by Wayne Mowat and their speeches have been broadcast on Monday afternoons starting on May 23. The winning speech and an interview with national winner Georgina Rood from Sacred Heart College in Wellington will complete the series on Monday 4 July.

Auckland Branch, NZ Chinese Association

For the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Banana Conference, June 2005. The aims of this public conference, organised by the Auckland branch of the NZ Chinese Association and held at the Auckland University of Technology on the weekend of 4-5 June, were:

* to address key issues and raise critical debate around challenges faced by local and overseas born Chinese communities living in New Zealand

* to examine the evolving identity of Chinese New Zealanders - past, present and future

* to bridge the gap in understanding between the descendants of the early settlers and recent migrants, and

* to challenge stereotypes and shift perceptions that mainstream society and media have of our communities.
A tall order and a brave agenda, but the many participants were generally very positive and there was a high degree of media interest in the event. Many of the papers presented are available at www.goingbananas.org.nz .

Dave Dobbyn

For Welcome Home. Dave Dobbyn's new album, Available Light, opens with what Listener music critic Nick Bollinger describes as "another Dobbyn anthem" from the singer whose songs are "deeply embedded in the national psyche" and who has "a song for every occasion". This time it's race relations - Welcome Home was inspired by the multi-racial march of New Zealanders in Christchurch against racism last year, and the accompanying video is a real celebration of our diversity. Dave Dobbyn is currently touring the small towns of the New Zealand heartland with this and his many other iconic anthems.

South Wellington Intermediate School (SWIS)

For Slice of Heaven, at the Interschool Stage Challenge, Wellington, 2005. On Wellington's 'night one' of the national interschool Stage Challenge, SWIS told the story in dance of a young Indian immigrant coming to terms with leaving his homeland and adapting to a New Zealand environment - making it his 'Slice of Heaven'.

In an 8 minute music and dance performance they opened with a colourful glimpse of India and then moved to the difficulties the young Indian lad had gaining acceptance in the New Zealand primary school playground. Moving through those issues they reached the point where both parties had a better understanding of each other; the new arrival felt New Zealand was his home and yet kept his essential Indian identity. Not only was the message effectively told through the eyes of children who face these issues, but the performance, costume and choreography were excellent, and SWIS came third in that night's competition, ahead of many secondary schools.

Manying Ip and Nigel Murphy

For Aliens at my Table, Asians as New Zealanders See Them. Manying Ip, academic and author and Nigel Murphy, Alexander Turnbull Library curator, present a powerful and shocking collection of cartoons - contemporary and historic - to illustrate deep-seated New Zealand anxieties about Asia. As Sir Paul Reeves said at the book launch in Auckland on 2 June, "this is an uncomfortable book". However, it is excellently presented and breaks new ground with the commentaries being published bilingually in English and Chinese.

Carol Archie

For Skin to Skin, Intimate True Stories of Maori-Pakeha Relationships. Long-time journalist and author Carol Archie has produced a very readable account of the stories of 10 families and 37 individuals who have experienced and are the product of intermarriage between Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders. The book is described as "inspiring, moving and honest" in the way it deals with the experience of everyday racism and questions of identity - "putting the relations back into race relations". The personal stories of these people, some of whom are very well known figures, reveal a great deal about our race relations and the challenges we still face in relating to each other and being respected and accepted across the boundaries of ethnicity. You can't get much closer than this in race relations.

NZ Police

For the launch of the Police Ethnic Website, June 2005. Visit the Police website at www.police.govt.nz and you will now be able to click on eight new language options - Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Somali and Vietnamese. This initiative, launched in Auckland on 9 June, forms part of the implementation of the Police strategy for Working Together With Ethnic Communities (a copy of which is also available on their website).

Northern Advocate, Whangarei

For a bit of sanity on the Parahaki name change debate. Things got pretty hot in Whangarei last month over the NZ Geographic Board's consideration of a name change for Mount Parahaki, which local Maori, supported by the Council, want changed back to Mount Parihaka, which it would have been but for an early spelling error. Northern Advocate editor Laura Franklin had to give space to all sides, but also put forward her own view in an editorial on the subject. Although local Maori got a pasting in the news pages, they told us they thought her editorial was fair enough.

Yilma Tafere Tasew, Wellington

For Diasporic Ghosts: A Discussion on Exile and Refugee Issues. It's hard to think of a precedent in New Zealand for this recently published book by Wellington Ethiopian refugee poet Yilma Tafere Tasew. His poems about the refugee experience are interspersed with essays from a wide range of his friends, mostly New Zealanders - academics, writers, public servants, activists - who provide insights, context and information about the poetry and about refugee issues. Plenty of food for thought here.

For information about race relations visit the Human Rights Commission website www.hrc.co.nz . The website has recently been upgraded to be more accessible.

Upcoming events include Maori Language Week (www.nzreo.org.nz )and the New Zealand Diversity Forum to be held at Te Papa on 23 August (visit www.hrc.co.nz/diversity , and click on forums for details).


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