Think Library, Think Diversity

The face of New Zealand is changing. Made up of 213 ethnicities, we’re one of the most diverse nations in the world. Spearheaded by the huge rise in migrant workers and refugees, our diversity offers opportunities and challenges.

Human Rights Commission

Christchurch City Libraries values and embraces diversity. On 24 and 25 August, a number of our staff attended the New Zealand Diversity Forum held at the University of Canterbury to share experiences and to learn and reflect.

The not-so-good news:

“In principle New Zealanders are inclusive, but in practice they make distinctions among different groups. They discriminate in subtle and not-so-subtle ways in the market and other domains. New Zealanders hide their prejudices in institutions that give them plausible deniability of racism, or they express their prejudices in an anonymous setting.

We are people that have good in our hearts, but often struggle to do what is right, especially in specific situations where we can hide behind institutional procedures or local norms.”

Prof. James Liu, Centre of Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University of Wellington

The good news:

Our bicultural kaupapa (policy and philosophy) can help.

  • Inspector Rakesh Naidoo (South African-born, of Indian descent), National Strategic Ethnic Advisor for the New Zealand Police, acknowledged the support he received from his Māori and Pasifika colleagues upon his arrival in Christchurch and how this helped with his settlement.
  • Te Marie Tau from the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre emphasised the importance of nurturing the people while we are rebuilding the city. He also talked about Manaakitanga (hospitality) and Whakawhanaungatanga (the process of establishing relationships) to ensure we don’t lose sight of our everyday needs.

Snapshots from the Forum

Here are some snapshots from our staff who attended the Forum:

Jo Yang (Network Library Assistant)

“I received such a powerful message from the forum and learnt that diversity is a resource that should be utilized for the betterment of New Zealand. It is a resource like no other where people find themselves learning new ideas from different societies and cultures. A fuel that could help rebuild Christchurch. I met many new faces who had travelled from other cities as well as finding familiar faces – customers at our libraries.

Through this forum, I believe I have gained an asset by learning a new ideology of being thankful that my job is helping to bridge the gap between diversity and connecting unique people through the library… Next year, you should attend!”

Barbara Purcell (Fendalton Library)

“There were several highlights at the diversity forum for me. The first was at the beginning when 13 people from different faiths each contributed a different flower into a vase. Each flower was different in colour, scent, form etc., as are people from diverse cultures. It was a great visual representation of diversity.

The Digital Natives presentation was given by a group of young people who had been attending the Inspiring Leaders Conference that weekend. They spoke about how they used social media as “word of mouth” and saw this as one of the strongest drivers of action. Examples given were the James Brown case in the US and the plight of the Yazidi girls captured by ISIS and sold as sex slaves for $10 each. One young person was developing an App to match volunteers with organisations needing volunteers based on their interest and commitment level. Another was developing a programme called FoodWeb where charities and communities would recognise via social media businesses who donated food to them. These young people, mostly around 18 years of age, were truly inspiring.

The BNZ’s Annie Brown spoke of the programmes, services and employment opportunities they have developed to increase not only ethnic diversity in their organisation but also gender equity: flexible working hours, including compressed working weeks and job sharing, and promoting Māori employment at the BNZ by partnering with Ngāi Tahu through a Cadetship programme.”

Susan Smit (Central Library Peterborough)

“The Forum was a great opportunity to meet lots of interesting people from many cultures and backgrounds. It was quite nice for a change to hear so many others speak with a different accent.

Diversity in Action Poster It was also awesome to see our interactive display which featured some of our staff profiles and relevant materials about diversity in action at Christchurch City Libraries. Comments were that people didn’t realise how diverse our staff is and that we had so many different language collections, which were featured by a wall of covers from the Maori, Pasifika and world languages collections.

It is hard to select which sessions stood out most for me, but here are some of my highlights, including the best quotes:

  • Professor James Liu: ‘NZ has a unique strength of biculturalism which is embedded in history that nowadays co-exists with multiculturalism.’
  • From the winning speech of a young Vietnamese Kiwi: ‘If you are aware of racism, to do a little is better than nothing. Have a conscious mind and be friendly. One grain of rice can tip the scale.’
  • Lianne Dalziel: ‘Don’t treat migrant workers as second hand citizens.’
  • The young adults at the Youth Forum who made the audience stand up. Phrases were read out and people were asked to sit down if any of these applied to them. The situations varied from ‘have you ever been ridiculed because of your appearance, accent, sexual preference’ etc., to ‘have you had to flee your home country’. It was an impressive exercise and at the end only 3 people were still standing from about 200.
  • Mike Bush, Commissioner of Police: ‘NZ police force will be joining the Gay Parade in February 2015 in uniform.’ This drew big applauses from the audience and my own mumbled comment that this was about time.
  • A guy from the Race Relations Commission who started his speech in German and assumed that no one had understood his intro (bar one…)

There was also an interesting discussion about the definition of diversity. It has a wider meaning than just a cultural issue as it also includes sexual orientation and gender awareness.”

Find out more:

E koekoe te tui
E ketekete te kākā
E kūkū te kererū
The tui chatters
The parrot gabbles
The wood pigeon coos
“it takes all kinds of people…”

2 thoughts on “Think Library, Think Diversity

  1. Gallivanta 12 September 2014 / 1:03 pm

    A much needed forum. Love the last words…. a proverb?

    • Vanessaccl 22 September 2014 / 8:25 pm

      Hello Gallivanta, sorry for the late reply – I had a few days’ off work 🙂 Yes, the last words are a proverb – a whakataukī

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