ChangeMakers Refugee Forum

ChangeMakers Refugee Forum is a rights based organisation that represents 14 different refugee-background communities in the greater Wellington region. Its vision is for New Zealanders from refugee-background communities to participate fully in NZ life. ChangeMakers works towards this vision through research, community development and advocacy activities. 

Visit the website of ChangeMakers Refugee Forum

Projects 2012
Rights Based Approach

Recently ChangeMakers has finalised its documentation on what it means to be a rights based organisation. This approach is reflected in our strategic plan, our policies and our engagement with communities.  We have also developed a rights based template that we use to ensure that the projects and initiatives that we are involved in are underpinned by rights. This work was done in conjunction with the Human Rights Commission.   

In 2012 we will be running a series of workshops to inform others about how rights based approach can be implemented.  

Strengthening Refugee Voices

We are funded by the Dept of Labour to ensure that people from a refugee background have a strong collective voice.  Every six weeks ChangeMakers runs community forums where people from across 14 different communities gather to talk about a specific resettlement issue and what can be done to address this issue. The forums also provide an opportunity for communities to have input into and give feedback on the work that we are doing and to help identify future initiatives.   

Speakers Bureau

The Speakers Bureau provides a unique opportunity for people from a refugee background to tell their story and to create a greater level of empathy and understanding among the wide New Zealand population.  Funded by UNHCR, the programme builds the skills of former refugees to feel confident in addressing a large audience and speaking in English which may be the speakers’ second, third or even fourth language.  

The power of these presentations and the impact on the audience is often visible. Audiences respond to and appreciate the chance to learn more about the lives of people they may see in their communities but have little contact with. If you would like a speaker for an event please contact us.

Wellington Regional Refugee Health and Well-being Action Plan

Since 2006 ChangeMakers has facilitated the development and implementation of the Wellington Health and Well-being Action Plan. The Plan focuses on resettlement issues that have been identified by refugee-background communities.  ChangeMakers works with government and non government agencies to develop and implement collaborative actions that will address these issues.  The 2011-12 plan has eight focus areas or strands and is available on our website.

Youth Programmes

ChangeMakers works with refugee-background youth (aged 13 to 29) living in the greater Wellington region. We use the principles of youth development, and take a pro-active, strengths-based approach to our work with young people. We focus on developing the unique potential and strengths of the young people, so they can be more confident and connected and can contribute both to their own community and the wider community. We also work on specific projects that young people have identified. For example, in 2011 we completed a DVD and resource booklet called How bullying affects us: refugee-background youth talk back.  Currently we are working with Refugees as Survivors on a Youth Media Project and in 2012 we will begin a digital story project working with Voice Arts Trust. We also have a Young ChangeMakers Network and run other projects with young people including workshops on increasing their understanding of their rights.

Community Development

ChangeMakers Refugee Forum is working with Wellington and Hutt Valley refugee-background communities to support these communities to build strong, independent communities. We do this by facilitating workshops on forming and running an incorporated society, governance and fundraising training and by bringing communities together to discuss issues.   We have also supported specific initiatives such as the Hutt Valley Learning Centre, which aims to ensure that refugee-background students reach their academic potential. We also run workshops on benefit entitlements and how Work and Income can support people into employment.

Refugees in Business

This programme supports people who would like to start their own business.  Since 2009 we have worked over 40 people to explore whether their business idea can be developed into a sustainable business venture.  This work is  supported by the RiB Advisory Group, made up of successful business professionals who provide guidance, advice and feedback to clients.    

Women’s Network

ChangeMakers understands that women who are happy, fulfilled and connected with other women are able to support their families, their community, and to reach their own potential. Women from Wellington’s refugee-background communities are working with ChangeMakers to achieve this goal.

Representatives from each community form one of the three steering groups of the Women’s Network (Wgton, Porirua, Lower Hutt). Each year, they identify high-priority projects and create a Women’s Action Plan. 2011 projects include computer training, driver licensing, recreational activities, sewing and craft groups, and first aid training.

The steering group also organise an annual gathering for refugee-background women from across Wellington.

Community Projects: Drama and Resource Kit

ChangeMakers has created a drama and a resource kit to build strong families in refugee-background communities and train service providers who work with these communities. A group of former refugees developed a drama that was performed and recorded in order to produce a DVD. The accompanying discussion Booklet poses questions used as a prompt to discuss topics such as cultural differences, pressures on families, family violence and how to raise children in a new country without family support.

Funding from Family and Community Services enabled a professional director and a small number of professional actors to work alongside a group of refugee-background youth. The result was a series of six skits that were performed in three separate venues in Wellington and the Hutt Valley. We have run a number of workshops using the resource and are currently following up with communities to identify the next steps.  The resource kit is available for sale to NGOs, government providers and individuals at a low cost-recovery price. To order a copy of the resource, go to Building Strong Families section on the Changemakers website.

Research Programme

ChangeMakers research is guided by the priorities of refugee-background communities. We conduct, coordinate, and support research that informs refugee resettlement policy and practice in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Recent research activities include a report on the barriers to achieving and maintaining good health outcomes in refugee-background communities, discussion documents on family reunification and why refugee-background students should be recognised as an equity group at tertiary institutions, and coordinating a national directory of refugee-related research and researchers.

Research activities and findings are publicly available and used to raise awareness and influence policy and resettlement services.

For more information, go to the research section of the Changemakers website.

Report Launch

ChangeMakers Refugee Forum will launch its latest  research focussing on employment within the refugee-background communities, at the National Refugee Resettlement Forum, held in Wellington on 30-31 May. The report, ‘People with refugee backgrounds can do the job’: Refugee-background experiences of employment in Wellington, explores how employment contributes to the successful resettlement of people from refugee backgrounds. ChangeMakers conducted focus groups and interviews with 17 people in employment from 11 different refugee-background communities to provide greater depth of understanding to the following areas:

  • What it means to have a job
  • Factors enabling people from refugee backgrounds to gain employment
  • Barriers and challenges to obtaining a job and meaningful employment.

For more information, or to obtain a copy of the report after its launch, contact Muktar at or 04-801-5812

ChangeMakers Refugee Forum movie fundraiser, 14 November

Support ChangeMakers work by seeing the award winning MONSIEUR LAZHAR on Wednesday 14 November from 8pm at Penthouse Cinema 205 Ohiro Road, Brooklyn, Wellington. For tickets contact 801-5812 or email

Contact:  Tim,

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