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Newsletters > Diversity Action Programme > Te Punanga: Refugee Focus > 2012 > April

Te Punanga: Refugee Focus

ISSN 1178-0940 April, 2012

News & Issues

Hutt Valley youth from Rwanda, Southern Sudan, Eritrea and Colombia celebrated twenty weeks of developing their media skills on Monday 16 April at the Dowse Art Museum.

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The youth who took part in the Multicultural Youth Media Project worked alongside local print and radio journalists and photographers who supported the young people to develop and publish their own work.

The project run by Refugees as Survivors (RAS) and ChangeMakers Refugee Forum aimed to build the capacity of refugee-background youth and to increase awareness of people from refugee-backgrounds among other New Zealanders.

‘It has been great to watch the young people build their confidence and learn media skills throughout the project’ says Samson Sahele, one of the project’s coordinators and a Cross Cultural Advocate at RAS.

The young people designed newspaper pages with interviews, stories and photographs, created a photo essay as part of a Wellington exhibition, and developed and delivered a radio programme on Wellington’s Access Radio.

‘I really enjoyed the course, I learnt about the radio and newspapers and it helped me to improve my English skills’ says Jonathan San, one of the participants.

Both Refugees as Survivors Trust (RAS), who provides specialist mental health service for refugees and migrants, and ChangeMakers, who represents over 15 different refugee-background communities, aim to ensure that their clients can participate fully in New Zealand.

‘Both organisations are focussed on successful resettlement for New Zealanders who come from refugee backgrounds’ says Jeff Thomas, General Manager of RAS. ‘The project is a great way of engaging youth and ensuring that can develop new skills, as well as raising awareness of refugee-background communities among other New Zealanders.’

Stories and photographs from the project will be on display at the War Memorial Library in Lower Hutt, from Tuesday 17 April to Monday 23 April 2012.

For more information contact Samson Sahele, Cross-Cultural Advocate with Refugees as Survivors Trust on 04-8050359 or Kirsten Le Harivel, Youth Development Coordinator at ChangeMakers Refugee Forum on 04- 801 5812.

The incident in Christchurch last month where a man suffering from a mental illness allegedly kidnapped a woman and stabbed another man was quickly followed-up with offensive commentary in the newspapers, on the radio and internet sites.

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The accused is a refugee from Somalia and journalists described him as “a knife wielding Somali man…”, “Somali man goes on knife rampage” and so on.  Not to be outdone the outspoken radio talkback host, Michael Laws, made the following comments on-air.  “I’ve got something against Somalian refugees.  No, I’ll be honest about it.  I don’t think they should be here….” And so on.  Maybe the callers weren’t phoning in so his comments continued to deteriorate.  “They don’t fit in and they conspicuously don’t fit in and they’re just a bit too much of a problem.”  The Christchurch daily newspaper, the Press, published an editorial cartoon about the incident which has led to complaints to the Press Council.

A Press Council spokesperson describes complaints about cartoons as tricky because they are regarded as opinion or satire and in this case the complaint was laid on the grounds of discrimination.  It will be considered next month.

Meanwhile deputy editor of The Press, Ric Stevens, says the paper operates under a code of ethics but cartoons are different and looked at on a case by case basis.  “There is a history of cartoons that is vigorous and edgy.  This one is confronting but it doesn’t talk about a specific ethnic group.  It talks more about the issue of whether committing a violent crime disqualifies someone’s right to stay in the country.”

The director of the Multi Culture Learning centre in Christchurch, Patrick O’Connor, disagrees and describes the cartoon as abhorrent.   “That an individual has allegedly transgressed criminally is irrelevant to that person’s status or nationality. Human beings sometimes behave in unacceptable ways. This is inevitable and such people belong to all cultures and ethnicities.”  The backlash has seen harassment, bullying and verbal abuse against the 200 plus Somali refugees who live in Christchurch.  A spokesman for the community, Hassan Ibrahim, says Somali people are being labelled and feel separated from the whole community.  “They are regarded as second class citizens.  We are considering relocating some to Australia or even the U.K as this is a country that doesn’t respect cultural diversity.”  He says Somali children fear bullying at school and women are scared to wear their traditional dress when shopping.  “The accused was labelled as a Somali man when he should have been referred to as a man with a mental illness.  He remains in hospital getting treatment for his mental illness which has been an on-going health issue for him.”  Mr Ibrahim says the media coverage has reinforced this country’s failure to accept different cultures.  He has discussed the issue with the Human Rights Commission and is urging the Race Relations Commissioner to focus more on educating New Zealanders about cultural diversity.  Commissioner Joris de Bres says this is already a top priority for him and the Commission..  “We do it through the diversity action programme and other things such as sport around the country.  It’s also up to every organisation to do the same.”

Mr de Bres agrees with Mr Ibrahim about some of the media coverage and points the finger at two particular examples that he believes were offensive.  “The cartoon was in very poor taste and Michael Laws’ comments on RadioLive stereotyped the entire Somali community and caused a great deal of grief.  It has led to one person’s actions resulting in the whole community being given a hard time.  The media needs to be aware that every time they label someone it affects others in that community as well.”

The Commission received ten complaints about the cartoon and has advised the complainants to take the issue to the Press Council, the appropriate body.

Mr de Bres acknowledges that the Press did follow up by reporting on the reaction and concern from the Somali community which was positive.  “But it still begs the question as to why the media use ethnic references in some cases, but not others.  That needs a lot more thought.  It sparks the kind of reaction that we have seen and there needs to be a very good reason to give such prominence to a person’s ethnicity.  Why do we say someone is a Somali and not that another one is a Pakeha or Dutch?” Mr de Bres will be in Christchurch early next month to talk with refugee and migrant groups about the media reports and other concerns they have.

[caption id="attachment_13257" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="The cartoon published in the Christchurch Press that led to distress for the local Somali community."][/caption]

Refugee Stories Book

The Centre for Refugee Education in Auckland is delighted to announce the publication of a book containing twenty three stories written by individuals who arrived in New Zealand under the UNHCR refugee quota programme.

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The stories, which are as multifarious as are the refugee experience, describe aspects of the journeys and resettlement of the nineteen contributors. They not only testify to horrific events in countries of origin, but also reflect the identities, cultures and strengths of each of the writers. There is no ‘typical’ refugee – but there are many situations and responses in common and these stories teach us about the resilience of the human spirit as well as about the importance of compassion, hope and optimism.

This book was launched at the AUT Refugee Education Conference (Auckland) in November 2011.

Copies of the book are $32.00 (plus p&p) and are available via AUT Centre for Refugee Education, 09 921 9367.

Ten cross cultural workers and community leaders in Auckland recently attended a facilitator training for the “Families in Cultural Transition”programme.

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Participants representing the Iraqi (Assyrian), Iranian, Burmese, Eritrean, Ethiopian and Congolese communities attended.

The programme is designed for people from refugee backgrounds to assist newly arrived refugees learn about New Zealand and to settle successfully in their new country. There are 10 interactive  sessions covering:

  • what support is available;

  • managing money;

  • trauma and healing;

  • families;

  • children;

  • gender;

  • youth;

  • enjoying the environment; and

  • welcome to New Zealand.

It is delivered by trained facilitators in their own language. The programme was developed by STARTTS, a refugee mental health and community service, in Sydney Australia and has been adapted for use in New Zealand.

For more information contact Joy Wilson, Wellington Refugees as Survivors (RAS) Trust at 04 805 0358 or Rachel Kidd, Refugee Services Aotearoa NZ Ph 04 805 0303.

Over the last 10 years, the New Zealand branch of the Vodafone Foundation has invested more than $15million in over 300 charities to improve the health and well being of young New Zealanders.

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This year they will add Refugee Services to their list.

“It has always been a challenge when it comes to tailoring our settlement practices and processes to support the challenges that refugee background youth face,” says Refugee Services Waikato Manager Rachel O’Connor.

“We have this responsibility as an agency to prioritise settlement tasks, but for the young people, there are also all these ‘life as usual’ teenage issues that they must cope with as well. I’m so excited that the Vodafone NZ Foundation is giving us this capacity building grant to review how we work with refugee background youth and make recommendations for improving the support we provide.”

The grant will fund a 12-month review in which Refugee Services will answer questions about the effectiveness of current support, what the agency can be doing differently and what staff need to know about refugee background youth in order to meet their support needs.

By involving other stakeholders and support agencies and partnering with the Waikato-area refugee communities, the project will provide an accurate picture of the resettlement journey for refugee youth, including what is working and what isn’t. The different perspectives will also yield creative and innovative ideas to further the development of refugee youth.

“This group of young people bring incredible resilience, life experience and of course, a diversity of cultures,” says Vodafone NZ Foundation’s Annette Culpan. “It’s so important that the community supports young, new arrivals to this country. New Zealand represents their future, and they can contribute their stories and dreams and reach their incredible potential.”

For Annette, partnering with Refugee Services is an opportunity for The Vodafone NZ Foundation to work toward their vision of a country where young people and families are healthier and positioned to succeed as well as affect significant change at a grassroots level.

“At Vodafone, we are deeply committed to our local communities, and having strong local roots in the communities in which we operate goes to the very heart of who we are,” says Annette. “We are delighted to support refugee youth in New Zealand – this is such a high needs area and refugees face multiple and complex issues. It’s a privilege to be able to support such a worthy cause.

“The Vodafone NZ Foundation, like so many of our partners, deeply cares about refugees in New Zealand and believes in what we do,” says Rachel. “They make our work possible, and for that we are very grateful.”

When he first arrived in New Zealand three years ago as a refugee from Bhutan, Indra Dulal probably had no idea how much influence he would have on refugee resettlement in the Manawatu.

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Already he has significantly expanded the long-term settlement support offered in Manawatu, and positive effects can be seen throughout the community. This change has been made possible in large part by Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), who support and fund Indra’s role as Refugee Services’ Community Development Worker.

“Our proposal to DIA was to help build vibrant former refugee communities utilising skills within those communities, and Indra’s work is vital to this,” says Manawatu Manager Kevin Petersen. “He significantly adds to the quality of work we do by enabling us to deliver more programmes and by further developing our relationship with all the different refugee communities in the area. He’s a really important link for us.”

Key initiatives Indra has introduced since he took on his role in January 2011 have included workshops and educational sessions on budget management, banking, driving in New Zealand, and family reunification. Indra’s support also lead to voting workshops last year that helped facilitate many former refugees to vote, many for the first time in their lives.

Indra has also worked to better integrate refugee background youth in Manawatu by initiating a workshop for parents to learn about extracurricular activities for their children and by encouraging young people to volunteer with Refugee Services to help with furniture collection and house set up for new arrivals.

For Indra, his role is about bringing people together and ensuring that all community members feel heard. “I am really interested in working with different ethnic communities, organising meetings with refugee background communities, sharing progress and news and listening to people’s stories, especially from the elderly,” says Indra. “I enjoy listening to and recording their stories. It makes those with low levels of English excited and helps the community elders to feel recognised, celebrated and acknowledged for the value they contribute to their communities.”

Indra has also been instrumental in supporting the development of Refugee Voices Manawatu, an organisation geared toward representing all refugee background communities in the area and who act as a reference group for Indra and his work.

“For me, the role of a community development worker is a positive factor for successful resettlement in New Zealand,” says Indra. “The community development worker addresses the issues of the communities, helps the communities to learn the Kiwi culture and learn how to preserve their own as well, recognises the role of the elderly people and raises the opportunities for employment. It also creates a model for development work for the refugee background communities.”

For Manager Kevin Petersen, Indra has done all that and more. “Indra’s success and the contribution he’s making to the community is something I see in action every day,” says Kevin. “Current and former clients come by the office to see him and value the advice and service they receive. This has a positive spin off on the work of us all within the Manawatu team.

“So much of what Refugee Services does is related to the early stages of resettlement because that’s what the vast majority of our funding is for,” adds Kevin, “but Indra’s work is about long term settlement support and what comes after all the initial challenges, when someone is trying to really integrate with and contribute to their new community. This is such important work, and we’re very grateful to DIA not just for funding Indra’s role, but also for their advice about community development and the encouragement that they’re giving us. This wouldn’t be possible without them, and it’s been great to see the difference we have made together.”

When doors keep closing for refugees

Refugees continue to face significant barriers to employment. According to a recent media report 57 per cent of working-age quota refugees are receiving benefits, compared with 12 per cent of the wider population.

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Read the full story on stuff.co.nz

Darwin 10 seek asylum in Australia

Ten Chinese nationals heading for New Zealand have instead claimed asylum in Australia. Continue reading…

Employment rights

Settlement Support Manukau would like to invite Migrants and former Refugees who would like to know more about their rights as employees in New Zealand.

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This free information workshop will run from 10:00am to 1pm at Auckland Regional Migrant Services Manukau Resource Centre, 6 Osterley Way, Manukau on the 24th of April 2012.

You will learn more about:

  • employment Agreements;
  • minimum wage rules;
  • types of leave;
  • terminating employment;
  • union rights;
  • the role of the Employment Relations Service (ERS);
  • discrimination in recruitment and employment; and
  • what to do if you have a problem at work.

To register please phone 09 2635490 or email ssnzmanukau@arms-mrc.org.nz.