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Migrants passionate about using their vote

Oct 17th, 2011 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

By ZamZam Aden and Mohammad Nazayer

MALUZ Moreno treasures her vote, a trait she puts down to her Panamanian heritage. The 32-year-old believes voting is one the most important things a person can ever do.

However, in the short time she has been in New Zealand Maluz, pictured right, has noted the different attitude towards elections.

“We used to vote through school. In Panama the schools would open up on a Sunday morning, the only day elections were ever held in Panama. Voting booths were in schools.

“People are heavily involved in politics because a volatile change in government has a big impact,” says Maluz.

“It is a way of telling our government about the way we feel and think.”

She says in New Zealand there is not the same level of pressure, making some apathetic about voting.

“New Zealand pretty much has the same government coming into power, it’s not as drastic,” she says of the differences in political parties here.

Maluz has worked for the New Zealand Somali Council since arriving in Wellington in February.

Part of her role is to ensure Somalis are aware of the New Zealand voting system and this year’s referendum.

She was one of about 40 people who attended the first workshop to raise refugees’ and migrants’ awareness about the elections and the referendum last month.

The session was held by Wellington City Council settlement support and the New Zealand Electoral Commission.

The workshop was the first of many leading up to the November General Election and it addressed ESOL teachers, individuals working with migrants and refugees communities.

Explaining the referendum and the differences between the electoral systems were some of the subjects covered.

Lloyd May, referendum returning officer and educator for the commission, says one of the aims is to help teachers and migrants assistants deal with the specific needs of their students and the communities they work with.

“I will talk to teachers, and their homework is to talk to other people,” he says.

Mr May says only a small number of the population understands the referendum, and the subject cannot be explained fully in one workshop.

“I can’t hope to give the absolute detail in 20 minutes, but I will show where it can be found,” he says.

Information is available in 18 different languages on the elections New Zealand website.

Christine Massey, an ESOL teacher, pictured below, says even as a New Zealander she finds it hard to fully understand the difference between the MMP and other the electoral systems.

“I will be able to explain some things to my students, but there will be lots of hard questions that I will not be able to answer.”

After attending this workshop Christine says she knows who to contact to get advice and education on electoral matters.

Dennis Maang, who is originally from Myanmar and who works for Refugee Services, says he wants to collect information and give it to people from his own community.

“Many of them are not sure about the voting system,” says Dennis.

Maluz Moreno found the workshop made her more familiar with the electoral system in New Zealand.

“I haven’t voted here before, so it is really helpful.”

She sees similarities between her view of voting as a Panamanian, and migrants from other volatile areas.

Voting is something members of the Somali community do not take lightly.

“A lot of Somalis take voting seriously, because of Somalia’s civil war history,” says Maluz.


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  1. “A lot of Somalis take voting seriously, because of Somalia’s civil war history,” says Maluz”

    I didn’t know that someones background (as in history/culture) could influence their choice to vote. That’s quite interesting.

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