Shakti Migrant Services TrustImmigration
Thank you for inviting me to speak at the opening of this Centre today.
I want to begin by paying tribute to Shakti. I first came across this organisation as Labour's spokesperson on Immigration, and they alerted me to the serious concerns they had about Asian women needing refuge from abusive partners. The reality was that they were, almost without exception, dependent on their husband as the primary applicant in terms of immigration status or as the New Zealand resident/citizen sponsor. Power and control issues that emerge from domestic violence are multiplied when dependence on residence stems arises from that relationship.
So I want to pay tribute to Shakti for informing me about this matter, as I have been able to begin addressing this in policy development as Minister.
I know that Shakti also set up their Asian Women's refuge and Women's Resource Centre on a wing and a prayer. Hopefully their joining of the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges will address some of their financial needs, however, I am aware of the pressure that builds up in such a situation, and I hope that this coalition government will be in a position to alleviate some of that burden. We are, of course, in the midst of the Budget round now, and I cannot go further than that.
I am pleased that Shakti has operated on the basis of seeing a need and meeting it. Today's opening is about establishing a family oriented centre, where any migrant can be put in touch with the appropriate services and resources. It's based on a networking model, that operates to point people in the right direction.
I have consistently made the point that the only true measure of the success of an immigration policy is the level of successful settlement outcomes. Successful settlement must be our primary aim. I have been highly critical of the previous administration's fixation on numbers entering the country, rather than how well people have settled. Successful settlement is achieved through a variety of measures, but one is access to the community networks, which citizens and long term residents tend to take for granted.
I am very keen to see migrant settlement resource and information centres established in key migrant centres in New Zealand. However, this is not only the role of the immigration service; it is also the role of the Ethnic Affairs service, which was tragically run-down under the former government, and of Pacific Island Affairs, given the large number of Pacific Islands people who settle in New Zealand.
There are also many non-government agencies offering settlement services for new migrants. It's my view that we need to build collaberative projects to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication, and to ensure that all needs are being met.
This is the reason I put a stop to the NZIS's call for expressions of interest and competitive tender for refugee resettlement services. The key is inter-agency co-operation, not competition.
I hope that with the opening of the Centre today, we will see needs of new migrants being met, and that Shakti will be able to work with other agencies in order to establish the network of services that are needed in a city the size of Auckland.
I want to congratulate everyone that has made today possible, and assure you of my continuing support for positive settlement outcomes for all those people that choose to make New Zealand their home.