MNZ Voice for Ethnic Communities in this Year’s Parliamentary Elections
An election will be held on Sunday 23 September 2017 to elect Members of Parliament for the next three years. Citizens and permanent residents are entitled to vote, but need to be on the electoral roll to do so. You can enroll or check your enrolment online here. At our recent Annual General Meeting, members of Multicultural New Zealand identified some key strategic issues that are of particular relevance to ethnic, migrant and refugee communities. We encourage you to ask people who are seeking your vote what they propose to do to address these issues.
1. What do candidates know?
Ask candidates what they think are the key issues facing ethnic, migrant and refugee communities specifically and what they propose to do about them.
2. Funding for community groups in the ethnic sector
Community groups such as Multicultural New Zealand, local multicultural councils, newcomers’ networks and migrant centres provide a voice and support for ethnic, migrant and refugee communities. We promote intercultural understanding, harmonious relations, integration, and successful settlement. We rely on volunteers, but need funding to coordinate, support and train them and to provide office and meeting spaces. We get very little help from government agencies to meet these basic operating costs. We have no certainty of ongoing funding and have to apply annually for what we do receive. Philanthropic organisations as well as the government tend to fund on a project basis which does not cover ongoing staff and office costs. Last year the NZ Newcomers Network had to dissolve itself because of a lack of funding, and Multicultural NZ has taken over its functions with no extra money. This year the Christchurch Migrant Centre has also had to close its doors for lack of funding.
We need an adequate government allocation of funds for community organisations working with ethnic, migrant and refugee communities, to pay us on a multi-year basis for basic operating costs.
3. A framework for a multicultural and multilingual New Zealand
As New Zealand becomes increasingly diverse, we need to ensure that people of different ethnicities are able to live and work together harmoniously and that we derive the greatest benefit from our cultural diversity. We cannot leave this to chance – we must create the framework in which multiculturalism can thrive and develop strategies to ensure that people from minority ethnic, migrant and refugee communities enjoy equal rights and are able to participate in and contribute to all aspects of life. We note the recent adoption of a Multicultural and Multilingual Strategy for Christchurch and an Auckland Languages Strategy as local examples. Nothing like these exists at the national level.
We need legislation and national and local government strategies to affirm and support a multicultural and multilingual society. We need the Office of Ethnic Communities to be upgraded to a full Ministry, and the reintroduction of social and cultural wellbeing as responsibilities of local government under the Local Government Act. We need a community languages framework alongside the Pasifika languages framework and the Te Reo Māori strategy.
4. Structural Discrimination
Ethnic communities are under-represented in the staff, management and governance of public services, and public services are not well-equipped for serving all communities equally. This is evidence of what has been called structural discrimination or institutional racism. Although there is recognition of this in parts of the public service, little is being done to achieve the changes necessary to equip our public services for a diverse society where people of different ethnicities and cultures have different needs and different modes of communication.
We welcome the progress of work on the Better Public Service 2.0 (BPS2: Diversity & Inclusion) being led by State services Leadership Team with the aim for State Services to reflect, understand and value the diversity of the communities they serve. We appreciate the need for whole of government focus on eliminating structural discrimination and institutional racism from our public services, and to achieve equal representation of people from diverse ethnic communities in their staff, management and governance.
5. Temporary migrant workers
There is increasing evidence of exploitation of temporary migrant workers and international students by unscrupulous employers. While the number of labour inspectors has been increased in recent years, we believe it is still insufficient. Temporary migrant workers can be in New Zealand for a considerable time, but there are few supports available to them (for example, those working in rural areas, or those who are not proficient in the English language).
We need a broader strategy, to prevent the exploitation of temporary migrant workers, including a further increase in the number of labour inspectors, more proactive monitoring of employment conditions, and cooperation with community and employee organisations and education providers to encourage people who are suffering exploitation to safely complain about their situation. More attention should be paid to support temporary migrant workers, including support in rural areas and access to free English language classes.
6. International Students
There is an increasing number of international students arriving in New Zealand. This growth in numbers is impacting on the ability of all sectors including government agencies, educational institutes, NGOs and community based volunteer groups to support their cultural and well being needs.