The Ministry for Ethnic Communities - Te Tari Mātāwaka’s Ethnic Advantage Conference series brought hundreds of people from different ethnic backgrounds together to celebrate culture, discuss important topics and form new connections.
The first two conferences were held in Ōtepoti Dunedin and Ōtautahi Christchurch in late 2022, and the third was held in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland in May 2023.
Attendees represented various community groups and speakers included representatives from service providers and government agencies.
There were speeches, performances, plenary and breakout sessions exploring topics ranging from the cultural convergence between ethnic communities and mana whenua, how to increase funding avenues for ethnic communities, the economic contributions of ethnic communities, and serving on public sector boards and committees.
Ministry for Ethnic Communities Chief Executive Mervin Singham said the conference series was an opportunity for people to “connect, inform and grow” together.
“We have engaged extensively with ethnic communities across Aotearoa New Zealand and listened carefully to their wants, needs and concerns. They told us they wanted to belong, to contribute and be seen as strong contributors to this country’s growth and future.
“The conference was a platform for people from different ethnic backgrounds to connect with one another and engage with experts across the public and private sector. It was an opportunity to celebrate diversity and discuss how we can all work together to improve the inclusion of ethnic communities in wider society.”
The theme for the conference series was Ethnic Advantage. The theme highlights that there are many advantages to a superdiverse nation, and that ethnic communities have a variety of skills, experiences, and values to contribute.
“There is so much potential waiting to be unlocked. New Zealand is one of the most diverse countries in the world and we need to celebrate that. The people who came together for our conferences all have one common goal, to improve the wellbeing of ethnic communities. That’s our goal as a Ministry too – it’s at the heart of what we do,” Singham said.
The conference series aligns with the Ministry’s priorities, as agreed by Cabinet. It is also one way in which we aim to strengthen relationships with tangata whenua and increase understanding of te ao Māori.
On Friday, 12 May, the Ministry hosted a Cultural Kōrero evening. This was a celebration and exploration of ethnic communities’ contributions to the cultural and arts sector. The panel discussion focussed on diversity and inclusion in the creative industry, while the evening was also the platform for a book launch.
Professor Edwina Pio ONZM is New Zealand’s first Professor of Diversity. Her new book Aotearoa and Bharat Māori-Indian explores early connections between Māori and Indians, the themes that bonded them, and profiles several Māori-Indians. It also describes some of the ways in which the relationship between the two communities has been strengthened over the years.
The event featured speeches from the Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities, Priyanca Radhakrishnan and Ministry’s Chief Executive Mervin Singham. Manatū Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Chief Executive Laulu Mac Leauanae was also present on the night. The Ministry for Ethnic Communities and Ministry for Culture and Heritage are collaborating to ensure that the creative arts and performing arts sector includes our ethnic communities.
“We work closely with other government agencies to ensure ethnic communities have the same opportunities as other people living in New Zealand. This includes access to services and funding. A collaborative approach is needed to reduce barriers and improve outcomes.”
Please note, we will be sharing more insights and videos on our Auckland Ethnic Advantage conference and Cultural Kōrero evening over the coming weeks.