Introducing Newcomers to Indigenous People
June 2nd, 2014
The two different case studies above in immigrant inclusion were examined in a Cities of Migration webinar in July 2013. Five months later, in November 2013, the program leaders of these initiatives got the opportunity to meet and share professional insights in Wellington, New Zealand.
Henry Yu, Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia and Co-Chair of the Vancouver Dialogues Project, met Judi Altinkaya, National Manager, Settlement Unit Immigration New Zealand at an event organised by her unit as part of the Wellington Regional Settlement Strategy, under which the Newcomers Marae Welcomes project was initiated.
At the event, Professor Yu made a presentation to local Maori on Vancouver’s experience of bringing new immigrant and indigenous communities together for intercultural learning. The Vancouver Dialogues Project sought to achieve a similar outcome as the series of Wellington Marae Welcomes that were initiated through the K?piti, Upper Hutt, Hutt and Wellington City Councils in association with local Maori Iwi (tribes) as hosts.
Although the levels of resourcing for the Wellington project were vastly different from that in Vancouver (where the project was very much based on academic-led engagement and research), both approaches acknowledge that meaningful cultural exchange is an essential component for welcoming communities and newcomer settlement. The November event provided an opportunity for sharing insights from the two projects. The contrast in approaches led to an interesting discussion about the unique political and cultural landscape in British Columbia and their experience of gathering people together to share stories.
The discussion was facilitated by David MacDonald, political science professor at the University of Guelph, Canada. Professor MacDonald has a related interest in the area of indigenous-settler relations and is currently on sabbatical in New Zealand.
Wellington has a resident population of 200,000 compared to Vancouver’s 2.8 million. How do you differ from each other in your strategies to ”connect” newcomers with local indigenous communities?
The approach in the Wellington region was quite different. Seed funding totaling NZD$75,000 was split across five local areas, with the project engaging local city councils and Maori in those localities. Local Maori chose Marae-based activities that would provide the opportunities of achieving the goals for newcomer migrants by including them in local communities and workplaces and support the cultural differences they bring. In turn, newcomers learn to respect Maori values and way of life and care for the environment”
The success of the Marae-based activities led to ongoing opportunities for newcomer engagement, beyond the period of the seed funding. It was important that local Maori had strong ownership of the program and could tailor it to local conditions.
All newcomers to the Wellington region were informed about the Marae programmes through the local Settlement Support staff and through advertisements in local newspapers and in local settlement websites and social media.
What can Wellington learn from Vancouver about its program?
Wellington has appreciated learning from Vancouver about the positive sharing that can naturally occur if safe ”dialogue spaces” are created between indigenous and newcomer peoples. Specifically, we have
understood the value of creating opportunities for newcomers and indigenous peoples to share their histories, experiences and culture, and find the similarities.
Language can unite communities or divide them and much depends on nuance and who is doing the talking. “Integration” can sound like “assimilation” whereas “inclusion” sounds more welcoming. Are they the same thing or part of a bigger solution and which does your future work program lean towards?
Whatever they may sound like (and people certainly do confuse these terms) integration is the outcome of an inclusive society and this is the outcome New Zealand’s settlement approach aims to achieve. If newcomers are welcomed and included they integrate more readily. Integration does not mean giving up your own identity – it means bringing your identity into the new nation you have migrated to, and adding to it from the new nation. Integration is the strength that arises from the combination of what you bring to a country and what you gain from that country.
Assimilation is the opposite – it is the take-over of the newcomer identity by the host society identity, so that the culture, values, beliefs and experience of the newcomer are suppressed and lost over time. Assimilation is not the New Zealand approach to settling newcomers.
Both Canada and New Zealand are countries with along-standing indigenous population. What can First Nations communities learn from the immigrant experience and vice versa?
The immigrant experience is one that Maori readily relate to and empathise with – given that migration to cities is still relatively recent in their own history.
The most important learning for new migrants from engagement with Maori is a better understanding of their history and culture (and possibly even learn a little of their language). This is an important aspect of newcomer integration into bi-cultural New Zealand.
City councils and municipal networks are critically important in the delivery of welcoming and transitioning new immigrants in Wellington and Vancouver. Describe the civic planning strategies for immigrants?
The Wellington Newcomers Marae Welcomes project provided a tangible context for local Maori and City Councils to work together in supporting migrant settlement. Once the seed funding ceased, it was up to these local players to continue the approach. Both parties saw real value in the activities and many of the Marae-based events continue to cater for new migrants.
The Wellington Regional Settlement Strategy, under which the activity was established, is currently undergoing a shift in its delivery model, following a review in 2013. The future for supporting settlement in regions will be based on a Regional Partnership Agreement approach between the local city councils and Immigration New Zealand. This is currently under development.
What were the major lessons learned? Were there any potential cost efficiencies or resource savings you were able to identify through your shared experience?
The opportunity to engage with the Co-Chair of the Vancouver Dialogues Project in November provided a great follow-up to the Cities of Migration webinar. The event in Wellington specifically targeted regional stakeholders involved in settlement activities and delegates attended from a range of central and local government agencies, including the local councils, Human Rights Commission, Office of Ethnic Affairs, Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand Police, as well as Victoria University of Wellington and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Delegates were overwhelmingly positive about the session, and welcomed the sharing of successful strategies for addressing intercultural understanding within the Vancouver communities and the learnings taken from the Vancouver context. The presentation and discussion helped to reinforce the importance of bringing new immigrant and indigenous communities together for intercultural learningand provided a sound base from which to inform local perspectives when developing new community initiatives in the region.
Continued government and public support and endorsement of immigrant inclusion programs requires evidence of successful outcomes. Wellington’s Settlement Knowledge Base monitors engagement and relationship forming indicators of new migrants.
The programs initially seed-funded by Immigration New Zealand have now become integral to local City Council activities for newcomers – and this is the measure of their success.
New Zealand is currently developing an outcomes framework for settlement activity across government at a national level. However, this is unlikely to capture the outcomes of small programs at regional levels.
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