Joris de bres address to the 2012 new zealand diversity forum, aotea centre, auckland, 19 20 august
Address to the 2012 New Zealand Diversity Forum, Aotea Centre, Auckland, 19-20 August. Joris de Bres, Race Relations CommissionerTogether, over the past ten years, we have witnessed some very significant changes thathave impacted on race relations. There have been some seismic events anddevelopments that particularly stand out for me.First, there was 9/11. It occurred a year before I started, but, coupled with an increase innon-Christian beliefs and immigration, it presented a particular challenge in terms oftolerance and religious diversity. I believe New Zealanders dealt with that as well asanyone, if not better. We have not gone down the path of xenophobia and Islamophobiathat is sweeping Europe.There was also a slow seismic shift in the recognition of Māori, the reinvigoration of theTreaty settlement process, the use of Te Reo Māori in the public sphere, Māori Television,working through issues like the foreshore and seabed, water rights - and young peoplewho have grown up with that. A greater recognition of the indigenous dimension is the newnormal. Some of us just need to catch up.The third shift is in immigration, and the introduction of the concept of settlement support.Until this century, immigration largely focused on recruitment. Once, here people wereexpected to fend for themselves. Now, arrival is seen as the beginning of a journey, notthe end. And the diversity of our migrants continues to increase.There has also been a major demographic shift amongst our young. It is now birth, notmigration, that is the driver of demographic change. In the Northern education region 60per cent of school students are Māori, Pacific and other non-European, 40 per cent arePākehā. How they fare in the education system, the community and the workforce willdetermine our race relations in the future. If we dont get this right they will desert us forAustralia and elsewhere.The establishment of the Auckland Supercity is another major shake-up. Auckland is aqualitatively different community. The question on the table now is how does the new cityreflect and serve its diverse communities, in governance, in services, and in planning. Thatis the subject of one of our forums today.Literally seismic were the Canterbury earthquakes. The impact on the people of that regionhas been immense and continues today. The Diversity Forum was held there only twoyears ago, in the now demolished Christchurch Convention Centre, two weeks before theSeptember quake. Today we have forums from people in Canterbury on lessons learnt,and on communicating with diverse communities in a time of disaster.The tectonic plates also moved in our rural and provincial areas, with the growth of migrantlabour in dairying, horticulture, viticulture and services, and, therewith, greatly increaseddiversity. Yesterday, a forum looked at the treatment of migrant workers, and a newmigrant worker network was launched. Today we also look at migrant workers in the agedcare sector, following on from the recent inquiry by the Human Rights Commission.And then there was the explosion of the social media. Ten years ago we didn’t haveFacebook, Twitter, smart phone and tablet applications. Communication and networking
have been revolutionised. We also look today at the Law Commission’s report andproposals concerning unacceptable content in the new media.And then there is the retirement of the baby boomers, like me: a generation that visitedeconomic liberalism, student fees, and unaffordable housing on our unsuspecting children.Now were moving into and through the ranks of retirees.Toxic advertiser John Ansell, who brought us the iwi versus kiwi campaign for Dr Brashand the National Party in 2005, and whose anti Treaty ads were rejected even by Dr Brashand his newly acquired ACT Party in 2011, now wants to try again to return New Zealandto the past century, on the theme of Treatygate and a colourblind state. He wants areferendum on "Do we want a colourblind state, a state that doesnt practice racialfavouritism in any way whatsoever?" What a tosser. Fortunately, this time he doesnt havea political party to support him, and he has turned to bigoted Invercargill businessmanLouis Crimp for the 2 million dollar price tag of the campaign. No political party will touchhim, and even Louis told the Southland Times last week that he gave him a few bob, butnowhere near the two million dollars he was asking for.The rest of us are left asking, what sort of bankrupt vision is a colourblind state? To becolourblind is to be monocultural, monolingual, in denial about racial inequalities, pastinjustices and the indigenous dimension of our nation. You cannot treat people the same ifthey are different. You cannot ignore the unlevelness of the playing field. For the State toaddress disadvantage is not to practice favouritism, but to meet its obligations to enable allthe people to enjoy basic human rights. You cannot ignore the fact New Zealand hasundergone transformational change in the past decade, and that the future cannot be thesame as the past. Rather than be colourblind, we want to embrace our colour, ourethnicity, and our diversity, settle the injustices of the past and forge a unique nationalidentity that is appropriate to our place, our region and our century.The New Zealand Diversity Action Programme, which brings you this forum and to whichso many of you here contribute, has four goals: To celebrate our cultural diversity To achieve racial equality in the enjoyment of human rights To foster harmonious relations between diverse New Zealanders, and To fulfil the promise of the TreatyWe have been on that journey together for the first decade of the new century. Some ofthe spaces in which we will continue it result from the seismic shifts that have alreadyoccurred: The multicultural self governing city of Auckland The rebuilding city of Christchurch Our rural areas Cyberspace The spaces occupied and aspired to by young New Zealanders, and The realm of the baby boomers who have an opportunity to give something back in their retirement as Grey Power becomes Flower Power and Rainbow Power, or Shared Power or Surrendered PowerThese are some of the test spaces for race relations in the next decade. There is muchthat has been done, there is much to do. The Human Rights Commission’s 2012 Race
Relations Report highlighted the continuing challenge of countering racial prejudice, racialinequality, and exclusion.It has been a pleasure and an inspiration to work with you all. I will rejoin you as a babyboomer e -pensioner with nothing better to do than explore some of these spaces andchallenges with you. I plan to be back to sit alongside my predecessors Rajen Prasad andGregory Fortuin, who are here today, at future forums as a “former Race RelationsCommissioner”.Meanwhile, see you on Facebook or Puka Mata.