For our vote, heed our voice – ethnic group

New Zealand’s political parties are being urged to listen to migrant and ethnic communities if the parties want their votes in the upcoming general election.

The suggestions comes from New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils (known as Multicultural New Zealand), which launched its 2014 election policies at its national council meeting in Dunedin on Friday.

In the diverse communities of New Zealand, ethnic communities comprise 15 percent of the population (the 2013 census).

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The election policy comprises 26 proposals covering ethnic affairs, constitutional issues, race relations, settlement support and refugees.

The federation would like to see a national multicultural policy, support for community languages and the establishment of a national ethnic peoples advisory panel.

The federation wants the Office of Ethnic Affairs to be elevated to Ministry status, alongside the Ministries of Pacific Island Affairs and Maori Development.

All government departments should be required to have an ethnic community relationship strategy to ensure their services are equally available to ethnic communities, says Priyani de Silva-Currie,  the national president of Multicultural New Zealand. Of Sri Lankan descent, Priyani is a branch manager of Opus International Consultants and an expert in energy and asset management. Married with two children, Priyani replaced Tayo Agunlejika, who resigned the position last month to become the Federation’s new Executive Director.

The federation wants a review of Immigration New Zealand ‘s decision to terminate regional partnerships to provide settlement support services, and the government’s decision to downsize and transfer the Settling In programme from MSD Family and Community Services to the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

“The recommendations of the Auditor General on improving migrant settlement support services should be implemented, and settlement strategies put in place for all regions,” says Priyani.

“We want the safety of migrant and refugee women and children, particularly in relation to domestic violence, prioritised; and further measures taken to prevent the exploitation of temporary migrant workers.”


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