This story is one in a series profiling the eleven finalists in the inaugural E Tū Whānau Ann Dysart Kahukura Award 2022 which recognises and celebrates inspirational community leadership.
E Tū Whānau Kahukura are those people who support, encourage and strengthen whānau by modelling values, behaviours and actions that are positive ‘footprints’ that can be followed.
The Waitaki Multicultural Council has had a huge impact on the wellbeing and success of the diverse cultures and communities that call this largely rural rohe in Te Waipounamu home.
Over many years, the Council has responded with aroha, manaakitanga and innovation to the needs of the increasing numbers of migrants scattered through its small towns and rural communities. The Council offers a mind-boggling range of community services, social events, and training opportunities.
Waitaki Multicultural Council – promoting diversity, unity and social integration
Based in Oamaru, its Migrant Support Service currently works with around 14,000 people from over 50 different ethnicities. A number of these people live and work in isolation on farms in remote areas of the district.
Connecting newcomers to local places and people is also priority for the Council, which is achieved through its Newcomers Network. This largely volunteer run organisation hosts a website linking newcomers to activities and groups. It also organises events and activities to promote diversity, unity, social integration, safe communities, and social connection.
Social wellbeing, immigration, housing, and employment issues have always been a priority for the Council but the challenges of Covid 19 have led to a significant increase in demand for services in these areas. This doesn’t stop them running English classes, holding hui for women and young people, upskilling qualified migrants with governance and other professionally appropriate training, and running regular newcomers’ activities including weekly walks, coffee and monthly book groups, and social evenings.
Over many years, the Council has worked proactively with local tangata whenua to ensure that newcomers to the rohe are aware of the indigenous history and significance of their new home.
This kahukura collective works collaboratively with all ethnicities, including tangata whenua and local pākehā, to make this organisation and its services a rich community resource and a vibrant success. It provides local leadership in an embracing and very visible way, encouraging tolerance, inclusion, and wellbeing for all in their community.
The opportunities the Waitaki Multicultural Council creates for newcomers to learn about their community, make friends and develop their own support system is truly manaakitanga in action.