Change Makers Refugee Forum

03.10.12

E Nga iwi o Nga Hau e wha
tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Pshanato ithyeh,
Salaam alakum,
Minga la ba,
Amakuru,
Mhoroi,
Osiibye tya nno,
Buenas Noches,
Selam Tenayestelegne

Kia ora and welcome

I’d like to thank and acknowledge board members , staff, supporting organisations, and refugees settling in our lovely capital!

This afternoon presents a good opportunity to welcome you to Wellington, and to acknowledge just how important our refugee community is to our shared culture, our face to the world, our economy

I’d like to acknowledge a very important person who unfortunately cannot be here with us today, Adam Awad. As many of you know, Adam was involved in a terrible road accident in July and I wish him all the very best for his recovery.

Adam, of course, is an instrumental figure in the refugee community and a real asset to Change Makers, and Change Makers is a hugely valued asset to Wellington City.

Change Makers is such an effective advocate for refugee issues because it is community driven. It is closely aligned with migrant communities through its board, which is comprised of many cultures, and its outreach work with the people it serves. It has developed strong connections with government departments, non-governmental organisations and other social services groups.

This means Change Makers can affect positive change across all levels: In government initiatives and legislation, at civic level, by working with Council and social services agencies, and at personal level, making a positive difference for new families who are making new beginnings in Wellington.

Many New Zealanders only have a limited understanding of the enormous upheaval to someone’s life to move country. Especially when that move is to escape terrible events in your home land. Often it means saying goodbye to loved ones, and seeing the place where you grew up, for the very last time.

It takes a great sacrifice to leave your home and your family and friends but the choices you have made are for the best, and I believe that Wellington is the right place. Wellington welcomes you, respects you and values you

Our international communities give Wellington a unique advantage over other places in New Zealand – Global connections, cultural fusion, fresh ideas. It is what I call our Diversity Advantage

We are home to more than 85 ethnicities and our website promotes 141 multi-cultural groups.

As a capital city, we value the importance of our cultural communities. The many embassies, consulates, foreign missions and education providers attract people from all walks of life. They contribute to our shared sense of identity and broaden our connections to the world through the experiences and stories brought to our city by our many migrants, like myself!

In the past year, I have attended many other significant events that celebrate our diverse origins and ethnicities – among them…
• The descendents of the MV Goya, a ship which brought many Eastern European refugees from post-war Europe
• The Culture Kicks football tournament, which was a great day for ethnic communities to unite behind the beautiful game
• Many fairs and festivals showcase Wellington’s many ethnicities, including Newtown Festival, the Kilbirnie Community Fair, the Island Bay Festival, Waitangi Day, the Pasifika Festival, and The South East Asia night market
• Just this weekend I attended events showcasing traditional Indian Dance, Tulip Day which celebrated our Dutch community – many of whom were refugees post-World War Two – and the global phenomenon of World of Wearable Arts
• The Chinese New Year celebrations and Diwali are two events that attract huge numbers of Wellingtonians
• And I’m confident Africa Day will grow into a terrific celebration of the people from the cradle of civilisation
o Africa Day has extra importance to me as I spent some time working in Ghana, which left an indelible impression on me

Cr Paul Eagle and other Councillors were recently involved in the opening of a new African Community Group in Newtown. It’s wonderful to see how this community is really making a positive step forward in Wellington and I'm looking forward to may 2013 for the 50th African day

The Wellington City Council is proud to support these community events. We do so because encouraging community connections leads to community resilience. Knowing your neighbours is critical – and it’s not just about having someone over for tea or chai or kaffe. There is enormous value in knowing in an emergency how your neighbour can help you, and how you can help them. It could be that your neighbour is a doctor or is trained in first aid or it could be that you have a ladder, and you're handy with a hammer. These skills are all important in an earthquake

One of the significant ways in which the Council connects with our migrant communities is the Ethnic Forum, which we hold twice a year. The next Ethnic Forum will focus on "Neighbourhood building & preparedness", based on our very popular community Earthquake Rocks seminar.  This will be held on the 19th November. We always invite Change Makers to the Ethnic Forums

Council funds the Multicultural Service Centre in Webb Street for accommodation, funds ChangeMakers and English Language Partners on contract, and has funded various projects to benefit refugees over the years including smart Newtown network centre

Council also strives to ensure we deliver services to our migrant communities that are appropriate and in-keeping with cultural considerations. Recreation Wellington manages the Leisure Card which is available to New Refugees and Migrants, and this qualifies you for discounts at our recreation facilities and some other businesses in town.

In addition we have also developed a women's only swimming session at the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre for those women who for personal, cultural or religious reasons don't want to swim in standard public sessions. And of course the lovely Ada Nally promotes our multilingual library material - physically

These are just a few examples of the areas Council works hard for our migrant communities – you can find out more at wcc.govt.nz

So we’re here to help, and we’re happy you’re here.

Working in collaboration with great organisations like Change Makers, we want you to love Wellington as much as you can, and tell the world about this coolest little capital!

The speech delivered may vary from this text.