Hamilton's Multicultural Success Story

  • Lianne Dalziel

‘Official opening of the centre established for Refugee Migrant Service, Interpreting Service and Home Tutors Scheme’
2 Knox Street, Hamilton

Good morning and thank you for inviting me here today. I want to thank you for holding off your official opening so that I could be a part of your celebrations. Today I am delighted to be here as both Immigration Minister and as Associate Education Minister with specific responsibility for ESOL and refugee education.

My role here today, is to both congratulate you for the work you have done and encourage you in the work that you continue to do within the Refugee and Migrant Service, the Interpreting Service and the Home Tutors Scheme. I think it’s appropriate to acknowledge everyone associated with the Hamilton Multicultural Services Trust particularly as this year has been dedicated to recognising volunteers. It is of course the International Year of the Volunteer and with that in mind, I want to add my thanks to everyone who gives time, dedication and energy to the many and varied types of voluntary work that benefit the migrant and refugee communities who have made Hamilton their home.

As workers within these services, you not only provide a valuable service for your community, but you are an important first point of contact for many new migrants and resettled refugees in this region.

I’ve often said that the Labour-Alliance government believes that settlement outcomes are the true measure of the quality of immigration policy, not merely the numbers of migrants attracted to live in New Zealand. It is how well they live in New Zealand that counts, not counting the numbers who arrive.
It is also important to consider whether or not they decide to remain. If we lose interest in migrants the minute they arrive, then the benefits of migration will not be shared by migrants and the communities within which they settle – which is the key to success. And Hamilton’s rich diversity in its ethnic communities is a wonderful example of the key to that success.

In actual fact, the settlement experience begins before the decision is made to move to New Zealand. What people anticipate will be their life in New Zealand, more often than not, will become their own measure of successful settlement.

After all, a decision to move to New Zealand is usually the most far-reaching decision a family could make. It often involves breaking family ties and travelling long distances. Such decisions are not easily reversed either. If expectations exceed reality, then there is no doubt that the settlement experience will be the poorer.

A failure to find work commensurate with qualifications may not only cause a reduced standard of living, it may cause a level of humiliation, which is quite cultural in nature. It is important that realistic expectations are set, and that these are either matched or exceeded.

The NZIS has a catch-phrase "New Zealand – The Right Choice". At the moment we are putting the finishing touches to some material around the theme "New Zealand – Making Sure it's the Right Choice for You". This will inform people about the need to find work in New Zealand, emphasising the ability to visit NZ looking for a job offer ahead of residence being finalised.

It will also talk realistically of the English language requirements, and the need for qualifications and experience to be seen to be relevant to the NZ context. It will also highlight the need to check information with official sources.

The next phase in the settlement continuum is the arrival and the initial settlement experience. This is where connections into the New Zealand labour market and community networks need to be made, and where you as community groups can work with local government, to play a significant role.

The final phase in the settlement continuum is the development and strengthening of ethnic communities, which of course goes well beyond the migration experience, and it is for this reason that NZIS hands over lead responsibility at this point to the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

The government is of the view that the focus on settlement will pay dividends in the long-term, because it will have a positive effect nationally through enhanced community relations, and internationally, as we are seen as outward-looking and welcoming of visitors and new residents.

And with that focus in mind, it’s easy to see how the services you provide in language and support for new migrants is an important part of ensuring that the benefits achieved, are not just for new migrants, but for the region.

Of course, I am probably preaching to the converted, as Hamilton already boasts some excellent achievements in the way it embraces the strengths within its ethnic communities. The strength of support services here for new migrants and refugees is one I would like mirrored across all regions around the country, where we have significant migrant and refugee populations. Hamilton is ahead of Auckland in that regard.

Can I finish by saying how much I personally value your work and I commend you for that. Congratulations again to everyone involved in the Trust, RMS, the Interpreting Service and the Home Tutors Scheme. Keep up the excellent work. I am delighted to officially declare the Hamilton Multicultural Centre open.