Multicultural Councils call for eight policy changes

Octagonal approach covers primary areas of economy and society

Venkat Raman
Auckland, September 20, 2020

Pancha Narayanan

An independent Ministry to serve Ethnic Communities, legislative changes to prevent hate speech and crimes, a treaty-based approach to cultural cohesion and creation of an independent governing body to handle religious matters are among the eight demands of Multicultural New Zealand (MNZ), a pan-New Zealand organisation representing a cross-section of the population.

Among the other four demands of the Organisation, which incorporates the Federation of Multicultural Councils of New Zealand, are meaningful changes to immigration policy to reflect the neo-demographic environment, a culturally appropriate Public Holiday Act, a sound education policy that includes a compulsory second language in all schools and a more equitable public health system. While most of the initiatives provide for ‘100 days from the date of the next government,’ a few others demand immediate implementation.

Address to all Parties
Wellington-based MNZ President Pancha Narayanan said that the ‘Eight-Point Proviso’ is addressed to all political parties that may be in government in the future and that there is a pronounced need to benchmark these for recent migrants and former refugees to measure the achievements of governments during their tenure.

“Recent migrants and former refugees are some of our most vulnerable people, and many have experienced trauma, extreme hardship and discrimination. It is imperative that we take advantage of the upcoming general election to enforce a positive change. The shooting massacre in Christchurch (March 15, 2019) should not happen again. Our government must be made aware of the disproportionate effects that the Covid19 pandemic has on asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants,” he said.

Ministry for Ethnic Communities
In fostering its demand for an independent Ministry for Ethnic Community, MNZ said that there is a need for proper policy directives and consultation with the growth of migrant and refugee population over the years.

“Promises made pre-election by political parties have not been carried through, implying that it has not been considered a priority during coalition negotiations in forming a government. MNZ wants creation of an independent ministry as a non-negotiable item in all future collation arrangements. A separate ministry will provide a strong voice to address the needs of migrants better,” he said.

Law against Hate Speech and Crimes
According to MNZ, the current legislation on Hate Speech and Hate Crimes are inadequate, limited in scope and difficult to access and understand.

“Implicitly, the current law supports a socio-cultural environment in New Zealand that supports statements and crime against Maori and other emerging communities. New Zealanders of all ethnicities must have ready access to their rights, but the current structure of legislation prevents such access. There should be a clearer definition of Hate Speech and Hate Crime. There is also a need to consolidate the current hate crime laws into a single Legislation,” Mr Narayanan said.

Cultural Cohesion as Treaty

Emphasising the importance of cultural cohesion, the MNZ initiative embeds a Treaty-based approach through ‘Huarahi Hou,’ which the organisation launched in 2018. Perceived as “A New Beginning, New Direction and New Pathway,’ the strategy encourages communities to understand the Treaty of Waitangi and contemporary Maori culture.

It mandates local governments to develop multicultural strategies and plans within all Councils based on the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. 

 

Independent body for religious matters

According to Mr Narayanan, the foundational separation of the Church (religious institutions) has blurred and hence the government needs a transparent guiding strategy for working appropriately with religious bodies, as religious issues cannot be handled impartially by population-based Ministries and supporting government agencies.

“The establishment of an institution independent of Government that is appropriately funded and designed to address all matters of faith in a culturally and theologically sensitive way will achieve the objectives. Consultation with all communities and relevant religious and cultural institutions is imperative,” he said.

 

Immigration Policy Changes
MNZ has called for significant changes to New Zealand’s immigration policy, seeking legislative changes to include increased capacity for ‘environmental migrants from the South Pacific,’ strengthening business migration to prevent malpractices, transparency in the distribution of migrant levy, promotion of multicultural framework and inclusion of an awareness package in the settlement process for migrants and refugees.

Public Holidays Act

Mr Narayanan said that public holidays in New Zealand are Eurocentric and that migrants from other parts of the world do not have the right to acknowledge the significant milestones in their cultural year.
“While the proposed introduction of Matariki as a Public Holiday, there should be a ‘Floating Cultural Day,’ nominated by communities or individuals through appropriate consultation. New Zealand should legislate to include two Cultural Days into all employment contracts in addition to the mandated public holidays,” he said.

Education Policy

According to MNZ, our education system does not reflect the multicultural spirit of New Zealanders and that first and second-generations are losing their knowledge of ancestral practices and mother tongues because they are not supported or encouraged outside of the home.

“We must ensure that New Zealand’s Education Policy is open to encouraging young minds to science from their cultures and ancestral homelands and that at least one second language is made compulsory in schools. There should be adequate resources,” it said.

Equitable Health System

Stating that the discrepancies in New Zealand’s health system came to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Narayanan said that the government must ensure access to timely, acceptable, and affordable healthcare of appropriate quality to every resident.

“This includes providing for the underlying determinants of health, such as safe and potable water, sanitation, food, housing, health-related information and education, and gender equality. Health services must be provided without discrimination on the grounds of race, age, ethnicity, or any other status. Non residents and visitors to NZ must be required to carry health- insurance,” he said.

About Multicultural New Zealand

MNZ is a pan-ethnic, non-political organisation, engaged as an independent Advisor to New Zealanders and the government. Established more than 30 years ago, it works with the incumbent government to provide independent advice and advocacy for voiceless volunteers who work hard to achieve better settlement outcomes for recent migrants and former refugees. This advice is provided prior to general elections through our manifesto.
Mr Narayanan said that MNZ encourages its members and community networks to consider the Eight-Point Proviso while voting in the ensuing general election.
“These items have been compiled as a representation of political priorities for Aotearoa’s multicultural communities. It is crucial to make a well-informed decision when voting, and we urge individuals and groups to raise these matters during political forums and discussions. It is crucial that our politicians are aware of these issues when considering policy initiatives, and that the multicultural community is invited to provide input into policy directives,” he said.
 

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