Wellington Multicultural Festival

  • George Hawkins
Ethnic Affairs

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Special greetings to the Mayor of Wellington, the Race Relations Conciliator, and the organisers from the Ethnic Council of Wellington.

I want to thank, in particular, all of the individuals who have organised the diverse programme of events and performances taking place today.

The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has asked me to pass on her best wishes for today's festival.

Like me, Helen represents an Auckland electorate which is home to a large number of Ethnic communities.

Recently she and I attended the Auckland Chinese Lantern Festival and the Chinese New Year celebration. Helen is very supportive of our Ethnic communities, and she very much enjoys attending events, functions and festivals like this one today.

I understand that Marian Hobbs, the Labour MP for Wellington Central, came along this morning.

Marian is supportive of our local Ethnic communities, as are of all our local Labour MPs. - Annette King in Rongotai, Trevor Mallard in Hutt South, Paul Swain in Rimutaka, Graham Kelly in Mana and Wellington's own Pacific Labour MP Winnie Laban.

I am pleased to see several children's items on the programme today. It is great to see our young people performing and celebrating their own identity.

I regularly visit schools in my own electorate in Manukau City and I am impressed with the understanding that our children have of different cultures in their community.

Wellington is a diverse and multi-ethnic city. There are many long-established Ethnic groups who have come to this place and made it their home.

Wellington has a well-deserved reputation as a diverse and culturally rich city. That has happened because we have welcomed and embraced variety and difference.

I think of the first Greek migrants who first came to this country in the 1870s. There is still a growing community of Greek (and Cretan) New Zealanders who have made Wellington their home.

Those first Ethnic migrants started a new life for themselves in Wellington. And over the years, other migrants have come from around the world to work hard and raise their families.

It was of course the fourth Labour government - during the 1980s - that did away with the old and outdated preference for European migrants.

Helen Clark was a member of that government that made it possible for migrants to come from all around the world to settle in this country and start a new life for themselves and their family.

Since that government made those changes many migrants from around the world have come to this country and established a home for themselves. We welcomed them and we thank you all for the contribution that you make to our way of life here in New Zealand.

I want to say how proud I am to be a Minister in this Labour Alliance Government, which has taken the lead in supporting our Ethnic communities.

This Government is committed to the needs of Ethnic New Zealanders. We were the first to establish an Ethnic Affairs portfolio and Helen Clark appointed me as Minister in charge of that portfolio.

We understand that Ethnic people deserve to have a voice at the Cabinet table and I relish that responsibility. I enjoy working with so many Ethnic New Zealanders and attending functions like this festival - I will be reapplying for this job!

The Prime Minister and I had the pleasure of launching the new Office of Ethnic Affairs at Parliament last week - perhaps some of you were there - it was a thrilling occasion for us.

We are working hard to promote a society where Ethnic communities are seen - heard - included and accepted.

It's an exciting time to be in government. It is an exciting time for all Ethnic New Zealanders.

Thank you for inviting me to be here today. I hope you all have an excellent festival and enjoy this opportunity to celebrate your own and other people's cultures.