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Office Of Ethnic Affairs Director Appointed

29 September 2004

Office Of Ethnic Affairs Director Appointed

The present Chief Mediator of the Human Rights Commission, Mr Mervin Singham, has been appointed as the first Director of the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

Christopher Blake, the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs, of which the Office is a part, announced the appointment today. He said Mr Singham’s appointment comes after a recent government announcement to retain the Office as a permanent part of the Department. Mr Singham will take up the position in late October.

“The Department has always been proud of its expertise in developing new government agencies. We were delighted to see Ethnic Affairs remain because of the added strength it gives us in our role of bringing citizens, communities and local and central government together.

“Mervin Singham brings professional expertise as a lawyer, mediator and communicator to his new role, and a personal background as a member of the Malaysian Sri Lankan community,” Mr Blake said.

Mr Singham became a New Zealand citizen in 2000 and Mr Blake said his experience in human rights and as an advocate for ethnic people provided the perfect background for someone to lead the office into the future.

Mr Singham was previously Complaints Manager for the Office of the Race Relations Conciliator, a Mediator with the Ministry of Housing and a manager for Mobil Oil. He holds a Master of Laws (First Class) from the University of Auckland.

For the past three years the Office has been led by its Establishment Director, Sonja Rathgen, who now returns to her usual role as Community Policy Manager of the Department’s Local Government and Community Branch.

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“I would like to acknowledge the success of the Establishment Director in building a strong and respected organisation which is well-placed to lead the promotion of effective ethnic affairs policy,” Mr Blake said.

Office of Ethnic Affairs Senior Policy Analyst Vas Gavriel will be the Acting Director until Mr Singham commences work in late October.

During its development phase, the Office of Ethnic Affairs has developed new ways of including ethnic people in policy development, established the Language Line telephone interpretation service, and supported the government in its negotiations leading to the Chinese Poll Tax apology and reconciliation process.


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