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Ethnic Whispers March 2011


Hon Hekia Parata

Kia ora koutou and greetings to everyone.

The devastating events of the last few weeks have highlighted the need for strong communities.

The Christchurch earthquake and subsequent Japan earthquake and tsunami has shown how important it is for communities to be able to support one another in times of adversity.

I attended Japan Day in Auckland, two days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, and would like to extend the Government’s sympathy and condolences to the Japanese community for the hardship they are currently experiencing.

Our thoughts at this time also remain with the people of Christchurch who are trying to rebuild their lives following the earthquake in February.

I visited many of Christchurch’s ethnic communities after the earthquake assuring them that help and support was available, directing them to Government and local agencies. We also helped establish a system where quake recovery information was broadcast on community access radio stations in multiple languages.

I have just spent two successful days in Auckland where I met with representatives from the Chinese, Indian, Korean, Filipino, and Muslim and African communities, the Sikh Council, the South East Asian Business Core Group and the Ethnic Business Council in Auckland, to share views about the Government’s responsiveness to ethnic people in New Zealand.

Ethnic communities play an important role in shaping the social and economic well-being of New Zealand, but in the current environment of austerity community groups and businesses need to work alongside the Government to improve their effectiveness.

Small and medium services need to collaborate more, particularly when applying for funding.

Although each ethnic community has its own specific needs, many of the issues ethnic communities face are similar, such as access to Government services and information, and the employment of skilled migrants. There are synergies that provide opportunities for services to collaborate.

If we work together and take advantage of the cultural richness that ethnic communities bring to Aotearoa New Zealand we will have a better chance of achieving a stronger, well connected, and more prosperous nation.

Hon Hekia Parata
Minister for Ethnic Affairs

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Japan Day held in shadow of tsunami

The devastating earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan dominated the celebrations at the 10th Annual Japan Day this year. The event was hosted by the Japanese Society of Auckland and the Consul-General of Japan in Auckland, Hachiro Ishida. Participants observed a one minute silence to express condolences and support for the people affected by the devastation. The organisers also collected donations and provided fundraising information.

Japan Day is the biggest event for the Japanese community in Auckland and this year it attracted about 40,000 visitors. They included the Minister for Ethnic Affairs, Hon Hekia Parata, other Members of Parliament, dignitaries and local government representatives. The day aims to promote Japanese culture and to foster links between ethnic communities in New Zealand.

Koreans also celebrated

Korean Day, held in the middle of the month, was also used as an opportunity to fundraise - this time for those affected by the Christchurch earthquake. It was organised by the Korean Society. It’s President, Justin Yang, said ‘The festival is a great opportunity to expose our cultural heritage to New Zealand society and to strengthen Korean society unity. We are also dedicating this big event for the New Zealand-wide campaign to raise money for Christchurch.’

The opportunity was also taken to highlight traditional art, food and music. Displays and activities included song and dance performances and a taekwondo demonstration.

About 40,000 people gathered in Auckland for a Japan Day with special poignancy back to top

Ethnic support during Christchurch recovery

Abyan Ahmed of Christchurch, as she prepares to deliver food to the Army cordons in the Red Zone

Elmi Nur passes refreshments to a soldier patrolling an inner city cordon

This was just part of the 300 meals the Somalian community prepared as a gesture of community spirit and belonging.

More help for Christchurch

The African communities in Auckland rallied behind the Christchurch Earthquake appeal on the 12th of March 2011 at the Mount Eden War Memorial Hall in Auckland. They raised over $3000 for the Red Cross. Christchurch is home to many African refugees and immigrants, many of whom have experienced shock, trauma and displacement as a result of the earthquake.

About 200 people, representing more than 50 different African ethnic groups, as well as many people from the host communities in Auckland, attended the event. The Burundian Drumming Group opened the function with a pulsating drum line, followed closely by Mohammed Bangoura, master drummer, who flew in from Sydney especially for the occasion. Nuredin Hassan the Director of the African-New Zealand network ‘Nile Flow’ and one of the organisers of the event, said, ‘The African community wanted to show ordinary Cantabrians and the Africans affected by this quake that our thoughts and prayers are with them as they rebuild their lives’.

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Minister uses good idea for practical help in Christchurch

Multilingual radio information for those affected by earthquake.

A recent visit to Hamilton by the Minister, Hon Hekia Parata, prompted an offer of help from Community Access Radio to ethnic people affected by the Christchurch earthquake. While Ms Parata was meeting with ethnic community leaders, she took part in discussions about local issues and community responses. In one meeting an idea from the Community Access Radio station in Hamilton was discussed, which led to a project to provide quake recovery information in a variety of languages over the radio. Within days this information was available to radio stations around the country. The audio clips are available at

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Local film director releases a wedding story

Roseanne Liang is a local co-writer and director responsible for the film ‘My Wedding and other Secrets’

New Zealand film writers continue to provide new insights and perspectives on our increasingly diverse society. One example is this recently released film, which follows the lives of a young couple from different backgrounds, having to overcome the expectations of Emily’s Chinese parents to find happiness. It’s an age-old issue retold in a local and contemporary context.

We are fortunate to have the co-writer and director of this movie, Roseanne Liang, speaking at our forthcoming EthnicA conference scheduled for April 1 and 2. Roseanne will be one of a range of dynamic speakers taking stock of New Zealand’s journey as a diverse nation and considering what this means for the future.

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Top US Official visits Auckland based Office of Ethnic Affairs conference - public invited

The public have been given the opportunity to hear the views of the US Special Representative for Muslim communities at the Office of Ethnic Affairs’ free conference on ethnic issues.

Farah Pandith is visiting from Washington DC to take part in the forum on the 1st and 2nd of April in Auckland. Based in the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s, office, Ms Pandith is in a unique position to stimulate debate from those who attend the conference.

Ms Pandith’s job has her travelling the world to stay in touch with communities and their issues. Her keynote speech will range from international trends, including the situation in the Middle East to her assessment of Muslim youth and what she says is the important question of how they are figuring out their own identities.

The two day conference is being organised to celebrate the ten years of work since the Office of Ethnic Affairs began. The Director of the Office of Ethnic Affairs, Mervin Singham, says ‘it will provide an opportunity for people to boost their knowledge and engagement regarding issues that are relevant to New Zealand’s ethnic diversity’. He describes the programme as inspirational and an opportunity to access an array of ideas.

The conference is being organised by the Office of Ethnic Affairs, at Alexandra Park, Auckland, on 1 & 2 April 2011. It is free and open to the public.

The Minister, Hon Hekia Parata will open the forum. Other distinguished guests include the Mayor of Auckland, Len Brown, Professor Paul Spoonley and Raybon Kan.

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Two major events celebrate diversity in New Zealand

More than 100,000 people celebrated pride in their cultures at the annual Polyfest and Pasifika Festivals.

The theme for this year’s Polyfest was ‘Ko te kanorau te mātua atua, ko te kotahitanga te koa - Diversity is the magic, Unity is the joy’.The theme embodied what the ASB Polyfest is all about - an iconic showcase of New Zealand’s diverse cultures and a special celebration of youth performance.

More than 9,000 students from 62 schools performed over the four days of the festival. 54 groups exhibited their skill on the OEA Diversity Stage. They involved Indian, Chinese, Fijian, Filipino, Sri Lankan, Korean, Middle Eastern, Thai, Malaysian, Fijian-Indian, Japanese, African, Bharatanatyam and Tuvaluan performers.

The week long Pasifika is described as the most significant cultural festival in the South Pacific, and the world’s largest Pacific festival of its kind.

The 19th Festival featured traditional and contemporary entertainment, festive flavours, and a huge variety of stalls.

The event finishes with a grand finale at Western Springs where the different nations have a village and people can find food and entertainment typical of each individual state.

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Appointments to the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust

New appointments have been made to the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust, which will continue the work started after the 2002 Government apology to Chinese people who were disadvantaged by early New Zealand legislation.

The Trust aims to create a heightened understanding of the Chinese community within New Zealand and to strengthen the unique identity of Chinese New Zealanders. The trustees are direct descendents from Poll Tax payers.

The Minister for Ethnic Affairs, Hon Hekia Parata, announced three reappointments and five new appointments. All eight Trustees will bring involvement in the Chinese and poll tax communities, and a mix of skills and experience in governance, community work, business, finance, directorship, language and market gardening to the work of the Trust.

For the full media release on the appointments click here.

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Introducing the Office of Ethnic Affairs new National Operations Manager

Lucy Liang - National Operations Manager, Office of Ethnic Affairs

Lucy Liang took up the position of National Operations Manager at the Office of Ethnic Affairs in March 2011.

She heads a team of 10 Ethnic Advisors who work extensively with ethnic communities in New Zealand to understand and convey their issues to the Government.

Before taking up the position, Lucy Liang worked in the Department of Labour for 15 years. She was the first Asian woman appointed as onshore Branch Manager within NZ Immigration. Her work has involved managerial roles around the world including Beijing, New Delhi and closer to home in Wellington, Dunedin, Auckland and Christchurch.

Lucy was the 2007 recipient of the Ria McBride Public Management Award sponsored by the State Services Commission. She received it whilst completing her MBA (Master in Business Administration) at Auckland University. Getting into managerial roles allowed her to create a positive impact in the Department of Labour where she focused on highlighting forward thinking, transparency and a successful workforce.

Being a community voluntary worker in Canterbury for two years has led Lucy to become a Board Member of Christchurch Women’s Centre. She is passionate about providing excellent services to communities. She aims to utilise her strategic thinking, management knowledge and leadership skills to be an effective leader who can make a real difference to the Office of Ethnic Affairs and its future direction.

At the same time she wants to be a positive Asian role model to Kiwis and new migrants, to demonstrate that goals and dreams can be achieved.

Ethnic Whispers is published by the Office of Ethnic Affairs. Readers should note that apart from the foreword the contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the official views or policy of the Minister for Ethnic Affairs.