27 September, 2001
New Zealand Enriched by SS Goya Migrants
Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of arrivals on the SS Goya
7.30pm, Santorini Greek Restaurant
Thank you for the opportunity to join in your celebration and commemoration of people who travelled to New Zealand to settle in 1951 on the SS Goya.
This is a celebration of the enrichment of New Zealand by migrants who made the long journey here (before we had jumbo jets) and an acknowledgment that there isn’t a New Zealander who does not have a migrant experience in their past.
My own background on my father’s side was a Scottish immigrant, my grandfather, who came here when he was 14 years old, and two German immigrants whose granddaughter was my grandmother. On my mother’s side was the great grandson of an Irish immigrant who was my grandfather and I’m not so sure about my grandmother.
Many of the migrants who came in the 1950s were described as displaced people, as a result of the 2nd World War.
But although there was a sense of tragedy that brought many of the displaced people to New Zealand, it was to New Zealand’s enormous benefit that they came.
New Zealand society has been enhanced from the obvious diversity that was introduced from culture and art to cuisine and wine-making, from the business boardrooms, to the science laboratories, from the classrooms to the university lecture rooms, to public service and the political world, in other words to every sphere of life in New Zealand.
It can’t have been easy, first arriving, with limited English, if any, and a mindset in New Zealand that people should fit in – do things our way.
That in my view has changed in the past 50 years. As young people leave New Zealand to do the big OE today they bring back a knowledge of the world that their grandparents rarely had.
Appreciating and valuing cultural diversity has made New Zealand a more understanding and outward-looking society than we were 50 years ago.
This Government has made it a priority to strengthen the role of ethnic communities – from community activities through to involvement in decision-making. We now have the first Minister of Ethnic Affairs and his Ethnic Affairs office staff have worked very closely with my own settlement branch of the New Zealand Immigration Service to give ethnic communities a real voice in this country, and to smooth the way for new migrants who come today.
If anyone wanted proof of the lost benefit ratio of immigration falling clearly in the receiving country’s favour, then they would only have to look around this room tonight.
And that is also true of those who come here not by choice, but because they need protection or they are displaced people. If we, as the receiving community, are welcoming and supportive they too will have the chance to rebuild, and see their sons and daughters take key roles in New Zealand’s social, economic and political life – as have the sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of those who came to New Zealand on the SS Goya in 1951.
Thank you once again for inviting me to speak. It is a real privilege to be able to celebrate your journey with you and to acknowledge the gift of yourselves you made to New Zealand all those years ago.