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Racial tensions in social housing units

Mar 11th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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LIVING TOGETHER: Council-owned housing in Daniell St.

TENSIONS between Somali and Samoan communities at a Newtown housing complex have prompted a submission on Wellington City Council’s draft social housing policy.

More needs to be done to promote cultural understanding between the two groups, says Ida Faiumu-Isa’ako, chair of the Pacific Advisory Group, which made the submission.

She was recently called in by the council to mediate conflict between Somali and Samoan families at the housing units on Daniell St.

Ms Faiumu-Isa’ako hopes the submission will highlight cultural issues.

Some of the Samoan families have lived in the complex for 20 years and some of the Somali families for more than 10 years.

“Community development is concerned with addressing the social needs of tenant communities by encouraging and developing a sense of place and enhancing communities.

“Where is the evidence of this?” she asks. “This is not happening,”

marieWellington City Council senior city communities advisor Marie Retimanu-Pule says the council is committed to enhancing relationships between different cultures in social housing.

She says there has been some tension, but the Somali and Samoan communities should not be singled out.

A community barbeque was held recently to encourage good relations between all tenants, not just Samoan and Somali groups.

Ida Faiumu-Isa’ako supported and attended the event.

Social housing residents in Wellington come from a diverse range of ethnicities and none represents a majority.

The largest ethnic group in Wellington Council housing is Pakeha with 35.3 percent, followed by Maori 13.8 percent, and Chinese 10.9 percent.

Pacific Island tenants represented 10.0 percent and Somali tenants made up 4.2 percent of households.

Meantime,  Wellington Somali Council chair Adam Awad says they are happy with how the council facilitates cultural understanding and are willing to work collectively with the Samoan community.

He did not give details of the conflicts, but says it arose between young people who were just being teenagers.

“It’s not a big issue for us really,” says Mr Awad. “These young people were raised playing together, but now that they have grown up. They are just testing the boundaries,”

He says working together with the council and the Pacific community is important to foster cultural understanding between the two groups.

“The Samoan and Somali communities have many similarities, particularly coming from a collectivist culture,” he says.

Oral submissions will be heard on March 18 and the final policy will be presented on April 15 following consultation.

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