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Strong attendance at forum boost for diversity

Human Rights Commission

Media Release

24 August 2005

Strong attendance at forum a boost for cultural diversity

The attendance by more than 400 people from around New Zealand at the national diversity forum yesterday has given renewed impetus to further harnessing the benefits of diversity and increasing intercultural understanding and links, says Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres.

The outcomes of the forum, which was held at Te Papa, included:

- Renewed efforts will take place to address the issue of a national languages policy to strengthen the use of te reo Maori, Pacific languages and other community languages. - Following a session at the forum led by prominent media representatives and the Journalism Training Organisation, the JTO has undertaken to make additional efforts in partnership with the media industry to address issues of recruitment and training of Maori, Pacific and journalists from other cultures, and to look at new ways of reflecting the diversity of their communities. - The further development of a national interfaith network was also supported with leaders from seven faiths present, emphasizing the importance of interfaith cooperation and dialogue. An immediate focus will be on the international Week of Prayer for World Peace on 16-23 October.

The forum incorporated a youth perspective, with Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro giving the keynote address on children and young people's rights and delegates from the previous day's national youth forum presenting a declaration on cultural diversity to the Chair of UNESCO New Zealand, the Hon Margaret Austin.

Other sessions considered issues and actions concerning community dialogue, refugee and migrant settlement programmes, public policy, cultural diversity in schools and diversity in the cultural sector.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres told the forum that the recent bombings in London had raised questions there and elsewhere in Europe about the wisdom of a policy of multiculturalism and a fear that this could be leading to separation rather than the integration of cultures and communities.

"These questions will no doubt have their echoes here, though our circumstances in New Zealand are very different. In particular, we are a small island nation with a constitutional foundation built on a Treaty that provides for people from very diverse backgrounds living together."

Based on the debate in Europe Mr de Bres outlined some factors that could be emphasised and fostered here:

- Relationships of trust, good faith and good communication between government agencies and diverse communities, especially minorities, based on government recognition of their human rights.

- Relationships between diverse communities to create trust, intercultural understanding and solidarity.

- Measures to address the marginalisation of minorities as a result of barriers to participation, persistent inequalities, ignorance, prejudice and intolerance.

- Leadership and responsibility within all our diverse communities.

- Our national identity and how we engage with, include, nurture and identify with each other.

Mr de Bres said there was a real urgency about mobilising the community to focus on the issue of diversity; given the ongoing incidence of racial and religious harassment; continuing disparities; the debate over issues as fundamental as the Treaty; the right of all peoples to be themselves and to practice their religion, language and culture within the bounds of the law and in safety; and our collective national identity and sense of belonging.

The forum took place on the anniversary of the public forum held at Parliament last August in the wake of the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Wellington.

The forum was organised by the Human Rights Commission as part of the New Zealand Diversity Action Programme adopted by last year's meeting, with support from the Office of Ethnic Affairs, Te Papa, the NZ National Commission for UNESCO, the Office of the Children's Commissioner and the Mana Media Trust.


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