Well-managed Diversity enhances New Zealand’s profile

Anita Balakrishnan

Imagine for a minute, a New Zealand without vineyards, wonton soup, Diwali (the Festival of Lights), the art of John Pule, Golfer Lydia Ko or Rugby player Jerome Kaino – sad indeed, but a likely scenario had New Zealand not been a destination for migrants over the years.

Interesting Statistics

The recently released 2018 citizenship data by the Department of Internal Affairs makes the striking point that new citizens to New Zealand came from 203 different countries, with India, the Philippines and China featuring in the top 10 countries of birth granted citizenship.

This data reinforces New Zealand’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive country. The make-up of New Zealand’s population has changed dramatically over the last 15 years, and our diversity continues to grow.

Invaluable communities

Ethnic communities have consistently proven to be invaluable to our country. People are embracing New Zealand as their own country.

It is a big step accepting and embracing New Zealand and its values.

But it is a two way relationship; successful social cohesion relies on New Zealanders’ ability to accept and embrace what our new citizens stand for.

We all sign up to the same things but how we do it can differ.

Accepting differences

New Zealand can build a powerful global presence by demonstrating how to create a society that thrives because of the diversity of its people. But this can only happen if we are prepared to acknowledge that there are different ways of thinking and working and feeling connected that might differ to our own ideas.

We are a small country where positive social inclusion can and should come easily. But an increasingly diverse society also brings its share of challenges, as we have witnessed in some other countries.

For an increasingly diverse society to thrive, people need to feel a sense of belonging and inclusion.

Integration and Inclusion

The work the government does through The Office of Ethnic Communities and other agencies supports this by ensuring the perspective of ethnic communities is integrated into government policy and services, increasing the ethnic diversity in governance positions through nominations to Boards and Committees and the work we do for our ethnic communities to flourish through increasing civic participation, a sense of safety, and celebrating the events that bring communities together.

Ideally, through the change in New Zealand demographics we will see ethnic communities seamlessly represented in policies and services and have a productive presence in the workforce, including in senior leadership and governance positions, and our connections to the world will continue to expand.

Picture Positive

The citizenship data for 2018, and the wide range of backgrounds, presents a positive picture about New Zealand’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive country. This reflects positively on our manaakitanga and the strength of our communities to enable people new to our shores to participate fully in society.

About The Office of Ethnic Communities

The Office of Ethnic Communities is the Government’s authoritative Advisor on ethnic diversity in New Zealand. It provides information, advice and services to and for ethnic communities in New Zealand and administers funds to support community development and social cohesion.

Located within Internal Affairs, The Office contributes to the Department’s overarching outcome, “Connected Citizens, Communities and Government.”

Anita Balakrishnan took charge as Director of The Office of Ethnic Communities based in Wellington on December 3, 2018. Born in Australia, she arrived in New Zealand during her formative years. Her previous assignments include various government postings, including The Office of Ethnic Affairs (as it was called then), Land Information New Zealand, Transport Ministry, the Electoral Commission and Housing and Urban Development Ministry.

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