Director's Update - May 2017

This is my first week at the Department of Internal Affairs and in the role of Director of the Office of Ethnic Communities. I am delighted to join the team, and look forward very much to meeting and learning from all our partners in the ethnic communities sector over the coming months.

I am a Kiwi who has spent many years in the public sector working on foreign affairs, culture and education issues. I have come from Victoria University (which is also my alma mater) where I was the Director of the Confucius Institute. Previously, I was at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand as the International Strategy Adviser, and before that a diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade working on our relationships with countries in Asia and the Americas, the United Nations, APEC and other institutions.

I am of Chinese heritage, and my home country is Malaysia where I grew up and where I have family and friends. My husband Michael is also a Kiwi. We have a daughter Nina, and our immediate Whanau also includes Michael's son Jonathan and daughter Anna and their families.

My team tell me we have had a busy month preparing for the 2017 Ethnic Peoples in Commerce Conference on 30 June 2017 at SkyCity – and that it is shaping up well. Dynamic speakers are confirmed, invitations have gone out, and we are fielding significant interest. There is an item further into this newsletter that will take you through to our webpage and registration portal. I am looking forward to hopefully seeing a number of you at what is a flagship calendar event.

Muslims celebrate the holy month of Ramadan

Ramadan has begun and I want to wish all Muslims in New Zealand the best for the holy month. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is regarded as the time in which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. To mark this event, Muslims around the world, including New Zealand, fast for a month. It is a time for reflection, spiritual devotion and renewal. Muslim families come together to celebrate their faith and their communities. By fasting, praying and through acts of charity, they give thanks for the health and happiness of family and friends. Muslims have been a part of New Zealand’s economic, cultural and social fabric, since the 1850’s. According to the 2013 Census there are more than 46,000 people in New Zealand, who identify as Muslims.

New Appointment to Office of Ethnic Communities: Diversity and Engagement Advisor based in Wellington

Elaina Lauaki-Vea will start with us in June 2017. Elaina is first generation New Zealander of Tongan heritage with lineage going back to ‘Uiha and Felemea, Ha’apai. She joins us from the New Zealand Treasury where she worked as a Research Analyst in the Pacific capability and Ministerial Advisory Service. Elaina grew up in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty and completed her high school and tertiary studies in Auckland. She is a graduate from the University of Auckland where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies and Sociology. During her time at university she was a mentor in low decile high schools and assisted in qualitative research that focused on cultural diversity in institutions and addressing institutional discrimination, and a volunteer literacy tutor at the Mount Eden Correctional Facility. Elaina also led mentoring groups in leadership development in the community.

Race Unity Speech Award

And finally – congratulations to Tauawhi Bonilla from Te Aute College (Central Hawkes Bay) for taking out the award for 2017 with a speech that challenged what our idea of what made a good ‘kiwi’.  And also to runner-up George Sabonadiere from Logan Park Highs School in Dunedin who characterised racism as a “beast” that needed to be fought with empathy and understanding. You can listen to Tauawhi’s speech.  

Wen Powles