Berlinda Chin calls herself an “involuntary migrant”. When she came to New Zealand in 2000, it was to celebrate her sister’s marriage […] not to stay. […]
[She] is now the Director of the Office of Ethnic Communities.
Today Berlinda is a very committed New Zealander – a Malaysian-Chinese New Zealander. […]
“New Zealand has become one of the top five most ethnically diverse countries in the OECD,” says Berlinda. “We have 213 ethnicities – and there are just 196 official countries on the world map.”
During this time Auckland, where immigrants and their children make up more than 55 per cent of the resident population, has come to meet the technical definition of a ‘super-diverse’ city (more than one quarter of the total population is from more than 100 different ethnicities). […]
“We need to think about the New Zealand our children and grandchildren will inherit,” says Berlinda. “We want it to be a better place for our future generations.” […]
“To unlock the potential that diversity brings, we need the practice of inclusion,” Berlinda explains. […]
In keeping with its mission, the Office has deliberately set about recruiting a diverse workforce. By Berlinda’s count, the Office has about 20 different ethnicities on its staff as well as a broad range of ages and backgrounds.
Berlinda is placing a strategic emphasis on strengthening the engagement of ethnic communities within their neighbourhoods and local communities. “We know that when
ethnic communities have positive local interactions, they build a sense of belonging, a sense of identity with their environment. They know they are part of the wider system.”
“We need to become mature and sophisticated in the way we have conversations about discrimination, about racism, about ethnicity, about that simple word ‘identity’ ”, says Berlinda.
“We need to think about the mechanisms by which we enable these conversations and we need to think about what we do when we don’t like what we hear. Sometimes we will hear perspectives that make us uncomfortable. How do we manage that?” […]
This raises another point: the place of […] the nation’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.
“The tangata whenua1 and their relationship to manuhiri2 have to be a part of this conversation,” says Berlinda. “What is the role of Maori in inviting perspectives or in welcoming different people from different countries? How do ethnic communities respond to this invitation with respect? This is one of those bigger questions I often think about.”
New Zealand, says Berlinda, has much to gain from its ethnic diversity.
“When you have people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and a good mix of gender and age, you will get higher levels of productivity and innovation.
“But, and there is a ‘but’, it requires the investment of time, energy and effort. […] It takes a ‘whole organisation’ approach to unlock the benefits of diversity.”
“Unlocking the benefits of ethnic diversity”, New Zealand Immigration, Immigration.govt.nz.
1. Māori for “people of the land”, it designates local people 2. Māori for “visitor” or “guest”