February 3, 2016

Mai Chen: Migrants will be the future of Southland

By Ben Mack

Migrants coming to live and work in the south will be the future of Southland.

Superdiversity Centre chair and University of Auckland School of Law adjunct professor Mai Chen,who led a cultural awareness workshop at the Southern Institute of Technology on Wednesday, said superdiversity was not just happening in Auckland

“It’s diffusing throughout New Zealand,” said.

Chen said internationalisation was the future of Southland.

“The issue here is depopulation and ageing,” she said.

Chen said that while enabling migrants was key, it was also important to simply create a welcoming environment. “The most important thing is to be welcoming. What we need to do is become the least racist city in New Zealand. It requires a change in mindset.”

SIT chief executive Penny Simmonds, who also attended the workshop, said there was a need to encourage more interaction and engagement between domestic students, international students and the wider community.

“When we had mainly domestic students, they had their own networks,” she said.

Second-year hotel management student Duke Wang, from China, said he hoped to keep working in Invercargill or get a job elsewhere in New Zealand following the end of his studies. “I think it will be a really good start to fulfil my dreams,” he said. “It’s really friendly [here]. I feel accepted.”

Postgraduate business enterprise student Riza Ambadar said he came to Southland from Indonesia, and lived with his wife and four daughters. “I like it here very much. It’s a very friendly city.” He also said he wished to remain in the region. “If I can find related employment to my qualifications, I will definitely stay in Invercargill.”

Chen also stressed the need for people not to judge others based on stereotypes.

She said this was more important than ever considering the increasing diversity of both SIT – where she said about 20 per cent of students were international students – and New Zealand as a whole.

“The first principle of cultural capability is don’t make assumptions.”

The workshop was attended by hundreds of international students, lecturers, and other SIT academics, as well as community leaders including Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, who awarded prizes to groups who presented skits showcasing cultural awareness.