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Ethnically diverse leadership key to creating an inclusive New Zealand

Media Release   I   17 November 2017

New research shows that ethnic diversity at the leadership table is the key ingredient missing from a truly inclusive multicultural society in New Zealand.

As part of a social enterprise research project by Multicultural New Zealand and Cultural Connections, more than 400 Kiwi migrants were asked a series of questions about creating an inclusive multicultural society in August 2017.

“The research shows very clearly that the number one area of improvement being called for by New Zealand’s multicultural population is to have a more ethnically diverse senior leadership table,” says Eric Chuah, Founder of Cultural Connections.

“The leadership across government, business and the education sector, is not seen as representative of today’s multicultural society and this is holding us back,” says Mr. Chuah.

Participants in the research came from a number of ethnic backgrounds throughout New Zealand. Twenty-four per cent of participants were locally-born Kiwis, and seventy-six per cent were born overseas. Many participants completed the survey in their native language.

New Zealand is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world and continues to experience record high levels of migration. Migrants are an important, diverse and changing community who make up twenty-five per cent of New Zealand’s population.

“That is why this research is really important, so we can gain a better understanding of what migrants and local Kiwis in New Zealand think, what is holding them back and what needs to change so they can contribute their full potential.”

Tayo Agunlejika, Executive Director of Multicultural New Zealand, says “by and large, New Zealand is a very welcoming society and migrants feel they are able to participate and succeed when they come to New Zealand”.

However, surveys conducted by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment show a worrying trend. Kiwis feel that New Zealand is less welcoming to migrants now (76%) than we did in 2011 (82%).

“This is very concerning and we want to make sure we do what we can to turn this around. Part of that is giving a greater voice to migrant communities in New Zealand,” says Mr. Agunlejika.
The research has the support of Dame Susan Devoy, New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner, and Professor Edwina Pio, New Zealand’s first Professor of Diversity at AUT.

“We can and must do better in understanding the challenges and barriers for migrants in being able to participate fully in New Zealand society and to recognize their economic, social and cultural rights.

“We all have a role to play in the future of our country, and the results of this survey provide a baseline which illustrates we all have work to do,” says Dame Susan.

The recent 2017 Stakeholder Summit under the leadership of Professor Edwina on ‘Ethnicity in the Workspace’ was positioned to provoke a thoughtful multi-dimensional interpretation of ethnicity and key learnings for organisations.

“This report is an endeavour to create greater awareness of diversity to build and sustain inclusive communities and organisations in business and society,” says Professor Edwina.

Westpac New Zealand supported the survey. Westpac’s General Manager of Operations and Contact Centre Leanne Lazarus says this research is “a good reminder of the further work to be done in building a truly diverse and inclusive New Zealand for all of its people.

“As the country’s population changes, a sustainable and inclusive plan is key for the New Zealand of the future,” she says.

The report is available at


Cultural Connections is New Zealand’s first social enterprise to specialise in migrant research. See

Multicultural NZ (Federation of Multicultural Councils Inc.) is a national organisation with 20 constituent regional multicultural councils and 37 Newcomers Networks throughout New Zealand and national councils for women, youth, seniors and business. See

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Ethnically diverse leadership key to creating an inclusive New Zealand

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