Two significant events on two successive Saturdays provided opportunities for dialogue with Auckland’s growing migrant community. The annual EthnicA conference convened by the Office of Ethnic Affairs of the Department of Internal Affairs on the theme “Visions for Leadership” featured a successful programme by Leadership New Zealand to identify and groom future leaders from non-traditional sources.
Presentations by nine young aspirants from diverse cultural backgrounds was the highlight of the event. With indications of a rapidly changing population mix and a forecast of near equal proportion of foreign-born citizens inhabiting our major city by 2021, there is an opportunity for greater efforts to accommodate the talents and aspirations of newcomers to our country.
NZARC was also represented on Saturday, 27 April 2013 at a conference on Racism and Discrimination hosted by the Ethnic Peoples Advisory Council of Auckland. This event offered further information about the need for better multi-cultural understanding to achieve the kind of society that brings out the best in its people.
A key concern emerging from these meetings was a request for greater acceptance. Feedback was that many new arrivals to our country find it difficult to engage with New Zealanders and perceive Kiwis as exclusive and not welcoming. As a consequence new arrivals increasingly socialise with their ‘own kind’ and avoid opportunities to participate in community events on the assumption that they are not welcome. There is evidence of the creation of self-centric associations with the potential of voluntary ethnic segregation that runs counter to the principles of an inclusive society that is may not be in the best interest of our country.
Voluntary membership-based organisations can play a meaningful role in breaking down barriers and aiding the assimilation and integration of new citizens. The composition of the board of NZARC is a good example of diversity and constructive cooperation. At a time when many collective entities are experiencing static or declining numbers and suffer from a lack of active volunteers they could seriously consider the migrant population as an available pool of potential members. Trustees of the New Zealand Association Resource Centre are available to advise and assist in this regard. Exploratory enquiries can be addressed in the first instance to Ralph Penning by email or by telephone on 483-7006 during office hours.