- What challenges do you think refugee-background communities that have been resettled in the Wellington region face?
- If elected what measure would you put in place to assist these communities to address these challenges?
- What experiences do you have of working with people from refugee-background communities?
Tim O’Donovan, General Manager, ChangeMakers
Strong advocacy and a co-ordinated regional response in partnership with Regional Council and Central Government and business. See my response to local refugee issues.
I responded to the first question on this issue so refer to that.
These may include post-traumatic stress, separation from loved ones, language difficulties, racism, lack of knowledge of kiwi systems (formal and informal) and poverty. Discrimination at job interviews, lack of understanding of e.g. sports clubs can perpetuate a lack of opportunity for the next generation.
While refugees may have diverse challenges, I suspect the most difficult is that NZers fail to recognise the skills and talents that refugees bring here. Maintaining language and culture.
2. What measures?
I would ensure that I talked regularly with a range of people who are refugees and who work on resettlement, together with the Social Portfolio Leader.
A safe warm home is the first essential - without which jobs, education and culture cannot thrive.
Social housing is a very useful start but many refugees are looking to move into their own homes. In addition to our own social housing stock, I would support housing trusts that are run in conjunction with tenants. Council contribution could be land or partnerships. I will advocate to Regional Council and Kiwirail that medium density housing is built at railway stations such as Johnsonville, Tawa, Naenae and Taita, for example. This would make the stations safer and could be a mix of ownership structures from public rental through housing partnerships to fully private flats.
I support a wide range of cultural festivals and particularly the multicultural one because it enables people to enjoy and share in each others\'\' cultures.
Considering the needs of different ethnic communities is important and should be embedded in operational as well as policy decisions. For example, I had to ask for the women\'s\' showers at Kilbirnie Pool to have curtains added - staff were responsive once they recognised there was an issue. Perhaps there could be an audit of Council services to determine whether they allow fro the needs of refugees.
An assessment of progress against the 2006 Wellington Regional Action Plan for Refugees Health & Wellbeing should be made.
Council must make stronger efforts to connect across different groups rather than set groups up to compete for funding.
WCC\'s job experience programme was worthwhile but very small. I\'d see whether WCC and other large employers could make this commitment. Leveraging volunteer experience to develop into job experience is one bridge I\'d support. I would expect Council\'s own workforce to resemble Wellington\'s wider diversity more closely.
I support the libraries efforts to make mother-tongue books and other resources available. Libraries (including on-line services) and community centres form an essential base of community infrastructure to help both integrate new residents but also an avenue to keep the knowledge and customs alive. For many refugee communities, sport (especially football) offers a way of acceptance and enjoyment, so sports facilities are worth our investment but WCC and other organisations need to work with different ethnic communities to encourage participation. Same with arts facilities - it would be interesting to see how many of Toi Poneke\'s studios are rented by non-NZers.
Expand the format of the Ethnic Forum so there is the opportunity for getting to know each other better by adding some workshop/open cafe style meetings.
If elected, I would ensure that part of the Social Portfolio Leader\'s role was to connect with refugee communities and would expect all councillors to attend at least some Ethnic Forums.
Continue the telephone interpreter service.
I have travelled widely though not generally in countries in strife. Nevertheless, working in Ghana and travelling in other parts of Africa and Asia, often by public transport and on my own, has given me the beginnings of insight into the wonderful cultures that the world\'s people can enjoy and an appreciation o fteh long cultural histories of what we patronisingly call \"developing countries\". I visited a Tibetan refugee centre in the north of India which was a humbling experience. While I enjoyed a good life in the UK and came to settle in Wellington by choice, I share some of the issues of not having grown up in New Zealand and not having a family network here.
On a lighter note, I have been happily humiliated in every annual Invitational vs Refugees soccer match!
I\'ve met people who are refugees from a number of different countries. This has been through Council housing issues, artists exhibitions, my work with making computers available (including Newtown Network Centre), the Wellington Multicultural Council (formerly the Ethnic Council), Changemakers and Refugee & Migrant Services. I think I have attended all of the Ethnic Forums that WCC has run.
In Hutt City we celebrate our cultural diversity. I certainly understand settling in to a new community for refugee and their family is a daunting task, particlarly if langauge is also a barrier. That is where the Council needs to support the refugee service and assist them in helping make easier the transition.\\r\\n
My expericne has been I have been a supporter of the the Refugee Service In the HUtt ESOL and a member of the Race Unity Day Celebrations organising committee in the Hutt for over 8 years along with being a member of the Hutt Ethnic Council.\\r\\n
1. My father, his siblings, his parents and his grandmother were refugees into Hong Kong in 1949 after the Communists revolted. So I grew up hearing stories about the hardships that refugee families endure. There is an issue with integration and jobs. If we get both wrong, then this potentially becomes a social problem. There is an added dimension in Wellington, where our refugees are unlikely to be of the same race as the majority—so they confront racism and prejudice. On that note, I certainly have confronted my fair share first-hand.
2. Wellington needs to signal that it is prepared to be a multicultural society. One of the many reasons I am standing is to break a glass ceiling: to finally highlight that this city does not care what colour or creed you are if you seek to be its mayor and its advocate. From day one I have tried to be the most inclusive person I can—which is why I learned so many languages and travelled so widely.
The specific measures would be (a) a proper outreach to all refugee groups, through liaising with them and working with them. When my family first arrived in Wellington in 1976, it was the personal intervention of Sir Frank and Lady Kitts that helped us integrate into society. Sir Frank even fought to get my Mum’s pay (she was a nurse) at the WHB sorted out. (b) I would create a mentoring programme to them to help them into our economy. I’ve already said I would do this for entrepreneurs and I see no reason such a programme should not be extended to our newest arrivals, who need our help the most. We could ask business leaders, or we could lobby Grow Wellington to assist us. (c) The plight of refugees is often ignored and racism often arises through media who refuse to focus on names that sound unusual. Let’s change that, by highlighting different groups of Wellingtonians through the circulars that the WCC currently prints. (There’s no reason this doesn’t go online, as well.) The more exposure different Wellingtonians get, the more we integrate, and the more integrated we feel. It’s worth it for the social benefits we gain.
3. I’m the son of a refugee. I was at school with children of refugees. Ever since I was a kid, I would befriend people from overseas, refugees or not. Maybe it was Sir Frank’s example, but I always wanted to make people feel welcome in Wellington. Outside my family, I have met numerous refugees, especially those who have started their own businesses, through the course of my career. I found their stories inspiring. I also realize they are the lucky ones who, through perseverence, got to where they are. I also know that if we all had those same opportunities, we can all excel. That’s what I want to deliver for Wellington: creating opportunities. So, unlike Mr O’Donovan, I have not directly worked with refugee groups at a formal sense, but I’ve learned so many of the lessons of the refugee experience through my whole lifetime. I’ve absorbed them into the way I see the world and the way I do things.
What we must remember is that we should never condescend to refugees, because, if we found ourselves in similar situations, we might not be as resilient. They’ve proven their mettle by losing everything they know—and they deserve respect for their hardship and dignity, from which we can learn.