We welcome you to the Society for Southeast Asian Communities Inc.’s community website. We have a number of stories to share with you but we’ll begin with the one below because of its signifi cance.
There can be no doubt about it: Asia’s – especially Southeast Asia’s dynamic political and economic policy development has radically reshaped Asia’s political and cultural landscape. The fact that almost all heads of governments of the 15 EU member states convened with their colleagues from ten Asian countries at the first European-Asian summit meeting at the beginning of March 1996 in Bangkok symbolises the greater importance Europe attaches to Asia. Now what about New Zealand?
Ever since Britain joined the European Community in 1973, New Zealand’s exports to Britain have declined. While Britain took 36 percent of New Zealand’s exports in 1970, it took only 14 percent in 1980. From 1973, New Zealand realised it could no longer expect Britain to continue to be its principal and guaranteed market and was forced to take an independent road if it wanted to survive. It therefore looked to formerly unfamiliar parts of the world to set up new diplomatic posts and find new trading partners. At this juncture, New Zealand began to pay special attention to Asia.
Asia, particularly East and Southeast Asia, have recently become one of New Zealand’s most important focuses of trade and diplomatic relationships. This international tie is bound to become even more important in the future. This region covers a vast area of diverse conditions and a wide range of linguistic, ethnic, and cultural characteristics.
The main trading countries which make up about 50% of the market for New Zealand’s exports are from countries in East and Southeast Asia, and it is growing. On the other hand, New Zealand’s trade relationships with them are only modest.
According to the 1986 New Zealand census, there were about 55-thousand Asians, and these identified themselves as mostly Chinese or Indians. However, by the next census of 1991, the Asian population jumped to 99-thousand, this time with a much more diverse national back ground that included people from Southeast Asia.
With New Zealand’s policy of adopting business migration to attract wealthy Asians to invest funds in our shores thereby boosting our fragile economy, and with the general points system which assesses immigration applicants by awarding them points based on such factors as educational and professional qualifications, work experience, and age, a dramatic increase of migration of Asians to New Zealand occurred. By 1996, the total Asian popula-tion reached 140-thousand.
HOW THE BALL WAS DROPPED
When those immigrants arrived through the decade of the 1990s, they experienced some discrimination and were isolated by New Zealanders of European origin, who were rather taken aback by the sudden influx of Asians.
But many of these new residents reacted, particularly those with en trepreneurial experience, transferable skills and good financial sup port by moving on to third countries like Australia, the United States, and Canada, or going back to their own countries of origin.
The result was a resource gain for those countries and a consequent ly equal loss for New Zealand.
Even then, with a background of continually changing immigration policy over the last 50-years, the diversity of New Zealand’s population continues to grow. Asian peoples in New Zea land have progressed from being a small group ignored as ‘Other’ 20-years ago to being a diverse, vibrant and significant sector of New Zealand society today.
However, Asian peoples do have their own unique issues and needs as anyone else. Despite the increasing visibility of Asian peoples in New Zealand, the response of the state and private sectors to their needs has hovered between poor to variable. Asian peoples are often still invisible in government policy. Better allocation of resources according to iden-tified needs is required for Asian peoples to fully contribute to New Zealand society as they often do in other western coun tries who embrace them.
BETTER HANDLING NEEDED
Overall, future policy development, programme planning and research needs to be done in partnership with our diverse Asian communities in New Zealand so that we do not create another route to marginalisation as what sadly occurred in the 1990’s to our country’s disfavour and disadvantage.
Thus, the Society believes in the significance of making its presence known, on the urgency of creating a united front for all 10 Southeast Asian communities in New Zealand and that a critical mass is important for their views to be heard and that the formation of a group such as ours can ultimately provide a venue for discussion where we can showcase the richness of our various stakeholders’ cultures, address existing gaps, build and also promote their capacity for effective social integration.
WHAT WE STAND FOR
The Society endeavours to collaborate with various ethnic communities and with the wider New Zealand community to promote national progress and cohesion amongst all its various ethnic communities. While we uphold our idiosyncrasies and traditions, we seek to respond to the chal lenges of social unity in our desire to integrate with the mainstream.
Challenges beset us as individuals and as communities. But in our united efforts, we will be able to fashion a shared, collaborative response, take pride in our cultural differences, yet work to gether to advance a common heritage and a cooperative spirit that is characteristically South east Asian in New Zealand.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
If you would like to know more about the Society for Southeast Asian Communities, Inc. and what it does, or if you would like to become a member, you can contact us through:
Murali (021-685804) | Matilde (027-2282675)
Phone: 027-4454727 (look for Farib Sos)