Meng Foon, Race Relations Commissioner, has urged Maori and migrant and refugee background communities to build authentic relationships, face-to-face, in order to create inclusive and connected communities.

Speaking at the Shaping our Futures Together Hui on September 6 to an audience of over 100 attendees, Mr Meng Foon shared his story of growing up in Gisborne, learnings in his life and hopes in his new role.

“It’s important that we get to know each other face-to-face, stop talking about each other and at each other, and instead meet each other,” Mr Foon said.

Working together on projects can strengthen relationships, according to Mr Foon, who said migrant, Maori and other communities can learn about and from each other, by working together on mutually beneficial economic projects.

He also highlighted the importance of leadership and systems.

“Leadership and systems need to reflect New Zealand’s diversity, not so one culture can dominate another culture, but so we can learn and take the best from each other. We all need to be involved in decision making on matters that affect us all”, he said.

On stamping out racism, Mr Foon highlighted that sharing stories and cultures builds knowledge and education about each other.

“Silence is never the answer to addressing racism and discrimination. We need to speak up wherever and whenever it happens so that together we can eradicate discrimination and racism. Educate…Expose…Eradicate”, he said.

Following the keynote address, examples of Maori and non-Maori communities working together to create connected and inclusive communities were shared.

Speakers from Ruapotaka Marae and New Zealand Red Cross highlighted how they work together to welcome newcomers through Maori customs and experiences, helping former refugees gain a better understanding of Tangata whenua and the cultural richness of Aotearoa.

Speakers from Roskill Together and Mad Ave who collectively run the Nga Herenga Waka project, meaning “the binding of canoes,” shared how the creation of the community you by Ngati Whatua carvers, based on community workshops, symbolised the connecting of diverse cultures residing in Mount Roskill and Puketapapa area.

The panel of speakers answered questions around counteracting white supremacy, the role of corporates and achieving an inclusive and connected future for all, highlighting the role each of us play and that change starts with each and every one of us. As one-panel member shared: “People hate with conviction. In response, we need to love with same conviction”.

The hui was co-hosted by Belong Aotearoa and Te Wananga o Aotearoa. Rahul Watson Govindan, Belong Aotearoa Chairperson said:

“Working together we can build a caring and inclusive Aotearoa where many cultures are woven together in a celebration of diversity, connectedness and belonging. When our Mahi is underpinned by Te Tiriti, we can strengthen inclusion.”

Hone Paul, Te Wananga o Aotearoa Executive Director Marketing & Student Services said:

“More and more tauira from migrant backgrounds are studying with Te Wananga o Aotearoa, including taking up our te reo and Tikanga Maori programmes. There is a growing interest in understanding te ao Maori and learning more about their new home - Aotearoa”.