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Equality for refugee-background tertiary students


An equitable education: Achieving equity status and measures to ensure equality for refugee-background tertiary students

Wellington, New Zealand, 23 August 2011 - A campaign to have refugee-background students recognised as an equity group in government policy and at universities and polytechnics will be launched today at the Victoria University Law School in Wellington at 5pm.

The campaign is a call to recognise that people from refugee backgrounds are clear candidates for equity recognition and its associated special measures of support.

Mohammad Ali Amiri – who will be one of five panel speakers at the launch – arrived in New Zealand in 2004 when he was 27 years old.

I always dreamed to study since I was a child, but as a result of war and bad economy, I never had the chance. I had to work hard to support my family. But since I came to New Zealand, my dream came true and I got the chance to study, even if I had to work fulltime to support my family. Even sleep couldn’t stop me studying – I had only three to four hours sleep a day. But this year I couldn’t continue with my study as a result of government cuts to the study grant for refugees.

People from refugee backgrounds need government support towards education so they could stand on their own feet and help this country to grow.

Much like those from Pasifika communities – an established equity group – people from refugee backgrounds must navigate a series of hurdles before they are accepted to study at tertiary level.

Many of the measures that used to go some way towards assisting them are gone, including the removal of the Refugee Study Grants, which provided a vital bridge into tertiary education for many refugees resettling here; adult education classes, also a building block into further education; and other entitlements to training opportunities.

Compounding the impact of these cuts is the lack of equity recognition, which makes it difficult for refugee-background students to access any of the special measures afforded to officially-recognised equity groups, such as scholarships, tutoring, mentoring and the provision of cultural liaison staff.

If refugee-background students are to succeed in their tertiary study and go on to participate fully in New Zealand society, then New Zealand must in turn, fulfil its responsibility and ensure that measures are taken to support refugee-background access and achievement in tertiary study.

A copy of the discussion document and background information is available at


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