Diversity and multiculturalism add to our strength

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

Let me start by congratulating Indian Newslink on their 17th anniversary.

This is a remarkable achievement, and I look forward to celebrating many other milestones on the newspaper’s journey of quality journalism.

I would also like to commend your role in promoting multiculturalism and the benefits it can bring to society, not just here in New Zealand, but across the world.

New Zealand is a vibrant and multicultural country and I am proud to be a part of that.

Outnumbering countries

A quarter of all people who call New Zealand home were born overseas and our region is home to more than 200 different ethnicities – more than the number of countries in the world that are members of the United Nations.

Over 13 per cent of the total population, approximately 595,000 people, identify as ethnic in one way or another. And Hindi is now the fourth most common language in New Zealand after English, Māori and Samoan.

We are lucky to live in a country that celebrates ethnic diversity and where it is against the law to discriminate against anybody because of their ethnicity, religion, or background.

Continuing to celebrate our cultural festivals, from Chinese New Year to Diwali, is a key part of what makes New Zealand so special. New Zealand is now one of a small handful of culturally and linguistically super-diverse countries.

Auckland, the World

Among OECD countries, New Zealand is the fifth most ethnically diverse.

Auckland is now more culturally diverse than London, Sydney and New York.

Based on current trends and projections, we will continue to become more ethnically diverse as our population grows and by 2025, one in five New Zealanders will come from an ethnic minority.

I want to see all members of our ethnic communities enjoying work and contributing to our domestic and exporting economy.

Significant benefits

New Zealand’s increasing diversity brings significant benefits to our regional and economic growth with international connections, innovative thinking, and increased trade and investment.

Our ethnic communities help us tap into overseas markets, expand our businesses and offer a fresh and innovative ideas and perspectives.

Our increasing ethnic diversity reflects increasing global mobility and New Zealand’s well-established immigration programme.

As the number of migrants moving to New Zealand increases, the government is looking for ways to grow their participation in our economy, in governance roles and in our communities.

Ethnic New Zealanders have a range of skills and experiences that can contribute to the broader Government goals for creating jobs and promoting economic growth and regional development.

To support better the ongoing and long-term settlement process for people and communities this summer, the government launched a new Ethnic Communities Development Fund, replacing the ‘Settling In Fund.’

It is important that all ethnic people have a sense of belonging and participation in New Zealand and that we foster communities that are inclusive and value diversity.

Education emphasised

Equally important to ensuring our multiculturalism fosters peace and harmony, is education – we must make sure our children understand the benefits diversity can bring.

The Early Childhood Education curriculum supports the cultural identity of all children, affirming and celebrating cultural differences.

It aims to help children gain a positive awareness of their own and other cultures, which helps counter racism and other forms of prejudice.

New Zealand prides itself on being a welcoming and ethnically harmonious country. We have a high standard of living and we offer a haven for those fleeing conflicts elsewhere in the world.

Global responsibility

Since the World War Two, New Zealand has resettled over 33,000 refugees and we have a longstanding commitment to meet the needs of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

We spend around $75 million on resettling refugees each year. The Government has recently announced that it will increase the size of the Refugee Quota from 750 to 1000 places per year from 2018.

In my view, this is an appropriate response to the ongoing crisis in Syria and demonstrates that we take our international humanitarian obligations and responsibilities seriously.

New Zealand offers a chance for refugees to build a life in a new land and settle down well with help from NGOs and government agencies. In time, they too will contribute to making New Zealand the most ethnically diverse nation in the world.

I believe that the way New Zealand has embraced multiculturalism should be an example to the rest of the world. We have demonstrated that diversity is a strength not a weakness.

We can learn so much when we interact with other ethnic communities and the mix of cultures, language and heritage adds to the rich cultural make-up of our society.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi has been a Member of Parliament on National List since November 2008. He is also the Chairman of the Law & Order Select Committee of Parliament.

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