Contributions from Diversity

Image of Matesha Ababa

This piece is a guest contribution from Matesha Ababa, President, West Indian and Caribbean Society

The growth of diversity in New Zealand is a fairly obvious phenomenon of the last few decades. New Zealand has more ethnicities than the world has countries. The vibrancy that brings is also clear, and most New Zealanders will take advantage of the cuisine and the cultural opportunities arising. My own community, through our West Indies and Caribbean Society, has held a number of successful dining events recently, and when we last welcomed the touring West Indies cricket team there was music and rum aplenty.

Of course we are proud of our food and our music and we want to share it with our adopted country. But we want the rest of New Zealand to be aware that this is not where it ends. It’s fairly obvious when you think about it, so let’s start with the question of why are people from the Caribbean in New Zealand? In some cases, it is no doubt because of marriage to a Kiwi. But in the majority of instances, we are here because we have chosen to relocate with our skills. We are teachers, project managers, analysts, engineers, lawyers, medical professionals: the list is endless.

We have qualifications and international experience that can only enhance the country we have all chosen to be our new home. Which leads to an important point, no one is surprised to see an English-accented white face involved in decision-making in any level of government or public service in the country, whether from organisations in the suburbs or those, that are at the level of national government. The same goes for the boards of the companies that form the main-stay of the economy. But for members of ethnic communities, irrespective of our accents, this is an exception rather than the rule.

What a waste. We have come to New Zealand because we have the skills that you need; you saw the value in that. But let’s make sure that you get the best value: we want to participate, to use our talents, and help New Zealand move forward and become the most united and cohesive country on the planet. What we don’t want is to be involved only on the margins. So why are you not knocking on our doors and inviting us to participate in the areas in which we excel? Why are you not asking us to join the committees and panels that make decisions on the future of our suburbs, cities and country? We are very happy to be here: it’s a really lovely place. But can we please be invited to the decision-making table as well?

Matesha Ababa