Meeting the growing needs of diversity in Aotearoa

Jenny Salesa

Aotearoa is home to over 200 ethnic groups who speak around 160 languages.

According to the 2013 Census, just over a quarter of New Zealanders were born overseas.

Over the next 20 years, Statistics New Zealand predicts that the percentage of people identifying as Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American or African will grow significantly, while those identifying as European are predicted to decrease.

Building strong connections

Our growing ethnic diversity challenges us to rethink how we build strong connections between communities, leverage our diverse strengths, and ensure no one is marginalised or isolated.

It challenges us to identify innovative opportunities that strengthen our communities.

The Government has a goal of building healthier, safer, and more connected communities by ensuring that ethnic communities are well connected to Aotearoa’s wider communities and governing bodies.

Platforms for engagement

Providing diverse platforms for engagement is one way in which we can encourage members of the ethnic communities to actively engage with topics of concern and inform policy work.

Increasing ethnic representation in leadership positions, including the Public Service and State Sector Boards, is also necessary to ensure decision-making reflects the needs of Aotearoa’s diverse communities.  

In September, I announced the Government would start collecting ethnicity data for candidates appointed to State Sector Boards and Committees.

This data will be used to identify opportunities and challenges in delivering our goal of ensuring Government bodies have a balanced membership reflective of our wider population.

State Board Appointments

Every year, the Government makes appointments to 429 State Sector Boards and Committees, and when we embrace the strength of our diverse society, we will gain a broader range of knowledge, skills and perspectives in our decision-making.

There is also a growing need to maintain and understand how we ensure social cohesion across all our communities. It is essential that all communities feel safe and a strong sense of belonging and inclusion.

This is one of the reasons why earlier in the year I hosted a Safer Ethnic Communities Ministerial Forum.

The Forum provided a platform for open dialogue and ongoing engagement between government and ethnic communities to address topics such as creating safer communities, family violence, small business crime prevention and the role of social inclusion.

Education Conversation

In the education space, I also hosted a number of community forums around the country as part of the Government’s Education Conversation | Kōrero Mātauranga, to allow ethnic communities to have your say on the future of New Zealand’s education system.

We know that our classrooms are also becoming more diverse and hence we want to be inclusive and engage with as wide a range of New Zealanders as possible.

We had an amazing turnout and valuable feedback, and I would like to thank all attendees for your time and valuable input.

We need to do a better job at recognising cultural diversity and the value this can bring to our education system.

Working with Youth

We have an opportunity for younger generations to build a better understanding of diversity – and we can also challenge our schools and teachers to find new and innovative ways to engage with a culturally and linguistically diverse student population.

Our ethnic communities make significant contributions to Aotearoa – socially, culturally and economically.

We contribute to social development and enrich the country’s cultural fabric by sharing our heritage and culture.

The wide range of festivals, events and activities celebrated throughout the year grow mutual understanding and respect, and foster a culture of acceptance and togetherness.

Diverse communities mean a thriving Aotearoa.

We will continue to work closely with our ethnic communities to build a thriving Aotearoa and ensure all ethnic voices are heard in all areas of our society.

My warm greetings to Indian Newslink on its 19th Anniversary.

Jenny Salesa is Minister for Ethnic Communities, Building and Construction, and Associate Minister of Education, Health, Housing and Urban Development.

Photo Caption:

  1. Jenny Salesa
  2. Jenny Salesa with (from left) Vai Ravindran, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Murali Kumar and Nagesh Nemani at ‘Parliament in Diwali’ on November 28, 2018
  3. Jenny Salesa with members of the community at the Global March for Peace in Auckland on October 14, 2018
  4. Jenny Salesa with Labour MPs and ethnic communities at the Labour Party Annual Conference held on Dunedin on November 3 and 4, 2018.
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