Launch of the Office of Ethnic Affairs -Wellington

  • George Hawkins
Ethnic Affairs

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to acknowledge the Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark; the New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils; the Race Relations Conciliator; my fellow Parliamentary colleagues; members of the diplomatic community and other invited guests.

It is a privilege to welcome you all here this evening as we celebrate the launch of the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

It is fitting that the Prime Minister is here with us tonight. She is the first Prime Minister to appoint a New Zealand Minister for Ethnic Affairs. She has given New Zealand's many different ethnic communities a voice at the cabinet table.

The Office of Ethnic Affairs has been established by this Government and that is really encouraging. It is a very exciting concept.

It reflects in part the Government's commitment to improving outcomes for ethnic communities here in New Zealand.

The establishment of the Office and indeed my appointment as the Minister for Ethnic Affairs, is only part of a much larger strategy designed to benefit ethnic communities.

Lets consider some of the achievements of this Labour and Alliance Government to date:

· We have invested over $670,000 ($674,000) to fund pilot support services to help new migrants settle in New Zealand.

· We have invested more than $560,000 into refugee resettlement support services in this country.

· We are aiming to increase the annual number of skilled and business migrants coming to New Zealand to a total of around 27,000 (that new target will take effect from 1 July 2001).

· Last year we agreed to allocate $318,000 a year for the next four years to house refugee status seekers who have not been granted permits.

I want to thank my colleague, Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel, for her assistance in these policy areas.

· In last year's Budget we announced an $11.8 million dollar budget package for retraining overseas medical doctors who were previously frustrated by the previous government's barriers to retraining and registration.

I want to thank Health Minister Annette King for her assistance to break down the barriers for hundreds of overseas medical doctors.

· In education we have provided an additional $6.6 million dollar increase in ESOL funding over the next four years to help teach children whose first language is not English.

I want to thank Education Minister Trevor Mallard for his assistance to help many of our children and young people who face the challenge of learning English as a new language in this country.

I also want to restate my support for the growth and potential of ethnic businesses in New Zealand.

Ethnic unemployment has fallen significantly since this Government came to office. But there is more work to be done.

That is why I have been getting out within the community - to meet with ethnic business leaders, to show my support for the work that is taking place.

You know, I went to an employment conference in Hamilton several months ago. At that conference I heard a familiar story.

Skilled ethnic New Zealanders wanted a job, but they faced barriers to jobs - not because they didn't have the skills, but because the employers were nervous and unsure about the applicants.

Employers need to know and understand that ethnic New Zealanders offer their skills, their energy, their enthusiasm, and their commitment. Ethnic New Zealanders have a great deal to offer employers. So give them a go!

This Government is demonstrating a very strong commitment to issues of particular importance to our ethnic community.

Earlier this year, the Cabinet agreed that New Zealand would make a contribution of $500,000 towards relief efforts following the disastrous earthquake in India.

Foreign Minister Phil Goff announced a further $150,000 in new spending towards earthquake engineering expertise.

You know, that is a massive contribution to assist disaster relief overseas. It reflects the very urgent humanitarian need. It also acknowledges the very close links between New Zealand and the state of Gudjarat.

I want to reflect on the commitment of our ethnic community here in New Zealand. As the MP for Manurewa, a very ethnically diverse electorate in Manukau City, I see many new New Zealanders in my electorate office each week.

Our ethnic community is working hard and contributing a great deal to New Zealand society. I thank all ethnic New Zealanders for making that contribution.

When I think about the past couple of months, the work that went into the establishment of the Office, there is much to be proud of and excited about.

I can tell you that even the Office logo impressed and intrigued me. As a former art teacher at a major high school in south Auckland, I was really impressed by the design concept and the art work that the young artists designed!

Ladies and gentlemen there is a great deal to be done resolve the many issues confronting ethnic communities in this country.

But our ethnic communities and organisations like the Federation of Ethnic Councils are working in partnership with the Government to address many of the problems that we face.

It is great to see the Office of Ethnic Affairs being launched. It reflects, in part, a very strong and comprehensive commitment to supporting ethnic communities here in New Zealand.

Thank you for coming this evening. I am looking forward to meeting the challenges that lie ahead, in partnership with the Office of Ethnic Affairs and the Ethnic community.