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Monday, 22 April 2019 12:05 pm

Spread of cultures in Wellington a cause for celebration

YOU don’t have to buy an air ticket to experience diversity in Upper Hutt – it has upwards of 100 cultures.

And many of them will be on display on Saturday when the city stages its Festival of Cultures as part of an international day to mark racial harmony.

Festival goers will be able to enjoy ethnic entertainment such as South Indian dancing, a Philippine dance story, Kapa Haka, Columbian dancing, along with many others, says Upper Hutt Multicultural Council president Pohswan Narayanan.

Internationally, Race Relations Day is March 21, although there will be various events throughout New Zealand on the weekends of the 17-18 and the 24-25 of March.

This year’s theme in New Zealand is “Aotearoa, A Fair Go For All”.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres (left) says the day is observed around the world and commemorates the 1962 Sharpeville massacre in South Africa.

Of ethnicity in Upper Hutt, he echoes Ms Narayanan in saying there is definite ethnic diversity.

“There’s a whole range of cultures in Upper Hutt, there’s Indians, Zimbabweans, a whole range of pacific, plus some of the established ones like the Dutch.

“It’s generally over 100 in Upper Hutt by the time you count everybody – it may well be over 100.”

Mr de Bres will participate in a number of Race Relations Day engagements over the two weekends, including a government reception on the 21st and events from Auckland to Christchurch.

“I get to attend a whole series of events. It’s quite a busy time.”

“We [the Human Rights Commission] have a partnership with each multicultural council.”

He is supportive of events like the Festival of Cultures and says it is “one of a number of ways people can celebrate and share their culture.”

Besides organizing the festival, the Upper Hutt Multicultual Council performs much needed functions such as providing ongoing support for migrants and refugees in the form of hosting social events, attending citizenship ceremonies, and offering information about the local community.

“We advocate visibility of the multicultural community,” says Ms Narayanan.

“We help keep the culture alive and share with other communities. Make them proud of their culture, especially for the younger generation. They don’t want to lose it.”

There are a growing number of support services for new migrants, with the government at the last budget announcing funding for English language programmes.

Changemakers Refugee Forum general manager Tim O’Donovan said this initiative means migrants will find it easier to gain employment.

“If you don’t speak English then it’s hard to get a job. The government at the last budget set aside $17 million over four years so that there are English classes available for migrants and refugees.”

Changemakers started out as “a forum or a meeting” which discussed issues affecting migrants and refugees, from the discussions were able to respond to government proposals and send relevant information to the Department of Labour.

Mr O’Donovan says as a concept the organisation has been around for about 10 years, and was the direct result of different ethnic communities becoming frustrated with government for making decisions without consultation.

Recently, the organisation held a movie fundraiser, which raised money to fund services for migrants and refugees.

He says new migrants and refugees face “a range of difficulties” when trying to settle into a community.

Some are dealing with trauma, some are here alone, and some speak very little English.

New Zealand has signed the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, which means that it helps resettle people who are deemed to be refugees by the United Nations.

Under the Refugee Quota Programme around 750 refugees are resettled every year.

According to Refugee Services the top five source countries for quota refugees are Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Burma/Myanmar.

Statistics New Zealand confirms that New Zealand is becoming more ethnically varied – with an increasing array of languages spoken.

Statistics gathered in the 2006 census show that from 2001 to 2006 the number of people “able to have a conversation about everyday things in Hindi almost doubled, from 22,749 to 44,589” and the trend is similar for other languages.

The number of people able to speak Northern Chinese (Mandarin) increased from 26,514 to 41,391, Korean increased from 15,873 to 26,967 and Afrikaans increased from 12,783 to 21,123.

Upper Hutt’s Festival of Cultures will take place on Saturday March 17 at the Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre, located at 836 Fergusson Drive.

It will run throughout the day, with stalls set up from 10am and performances by cultural groups at 4pm.

A range of ethnic food will be available.


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