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Racism upsets the social applecart

Migrants in New Zealand contribute more than $8 billion through income tax, GST and excise duty, making a valuable contribution to the economy.

Reports of exploitation and abuse of immigrant workers by some employers are very disappointing and not acceptable.

New Zealand must cultivate diversity.

We must realise the potential of our ethnic communities and it is critical to improving the social, cultural and economic life of all New Zealanders.

Government agencies should do more to cater to the needs of our ethnic communities. There is a need to introduce tougher laws against the prevailing institutional racism (structural discrimination).

As per the recent findings of the Human Rights Commission Report ‘A Fair Go for All’, the key social indicators point to significant inequalities between ethnic groups in New Zealand (Indian Newslink, September 1, 2012).

Minority groups are being disadvantaged by the country’s one-size-fits-all system in public services, which do not account for different needs and values.

Some communities have problems accessing systems and services here because of structural barriers.

“Structural discrimination is a ‘real and on-going issue’ and Maori, Pacific and ethnic people are not getting a fair go in New Zealand.”

Equal opportunities

According to Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres (who will step down this month), “The evidence is that a mono-cultural approach continues to fail Maori, Pacific and Ethnic communities. Put simply, Maori, Pacific peoples and Ethnic communities are not getting a fair go in New Zealand’s justice, health and education systems.”

Another problem is that ethnic communities have not been able to come together over time; when we are divided, we have no power and no one will notice us.

It is time for politicians to keep party politics aside and address the issues.

It is a wakeup call for the community leaders to move beyond photo opportunities, individual agendas and fairs and festivals.

New Zealanders of all ethnicities need to own their future and engage actively in shaping it for our children and grandchildren.

There is also a strong need for the youth to come forward and play a constructive role in the larger interests of the society.

New Zealand’s ethnic population is about 600,000, but we do not even have a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs.

We should shift ethnic relations from symbolism to joint nation building.

Sunny Kaushal is a member of the Labour Party based in Auckland.

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