General Manager's Update - December 2016

Well I must say it feels like ground has shifted significantly since my last update in October!

The ground has shifted literally in Kaikoura, and it continues to move along the many fractured fault lines which run through our country.  Also in the past week a number of our Tongan community have lost their lives in trying to reach solid ground in the Kaipara Harbour.  Our thoughts are with the Tongan community and the people of Kaikoura as they pull their lives and communities back together.

The ground also shifted in the United States as the elections produced a result that not many people considered possible.  The US election follows the recent Brexit vote in the UK which produced a similarly unexpected outcome.

A recent post by WhaleOil saw an outpouring of condemnation about the statements of a Muslim cleric in Auckland.  Interestingly public comments were much more muted about the statements made in the Australian parliament by the Minister for Immigration focused on 2nd and 3rd generation Muslims of Lebanese descent. 

These events and statements send signals to ethnic communities which risk reducing their sense of security and ultimately their sense of belonging.

All of this makes a focus on social cohesion in New Zealand even more important.  We need to actively work to build meaningful connections within and between all communities in New Zealand so that everyone feels included, safe and able to participate and contribute.  Some of the key indicators of social cohesion are: 

  • Inclusion – making sure that all New Zealanders have equal access to opportunities - and equal outcomes,  for example with regard to employment and income; access to education and training; social benefits; health services or housing
  • Recognition – making sure that all New Zealanders value diversity and respect cultural differences, and that people are protected from discrimination and feel safe
  • Legitimacy – building trust and confidence in public institutions to protect the rights of New Zealanders
  • Participation – providing opportunities for all people to participate in economic and social activities – for example voting in or standing for election in local or national body politics, or their local Boards of Trustees
  • Belonging – feeling like we belong in our community and in New Zealand.

Our task as the Office for Ethnic Communities is to provide advice to government on how well we are doing, and where we can do better as a country, to ensure that these elements of social cohesion are in place and working for everyone, especially our most vulnerable ethnic communities.

What we’ve seen from the first funding round of the Ethnic Communities Development Fund (ECDF) is that groups across New Zealand are doing great things to build social cohesion within their own communities – but also connecting their communities with others.  There are many promising projects that will soon receive funding from the ECDF for a wide range of leadership, social cohesion and cultural events which will promote the benefits of ethnic diversity and build intercultural understanding and appreciation in our communities – where it matters the most.  The Office of Ethnic Communities wants to grow this funding and these initiatives.

This will be our ongoing challenge and focus as an Office in 2017.  However, as 2016 draws to a close I would like to wish all of you a peaceful and restorative festive season.  I look forward to meeting and working with you all in the New Year.

Meri Kirihimete, Vrolijke Kerst

Maarten