New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA) had hosted a forum for international students on Sunday, August 5 at Mahatma Gandhi Centre, which focussed on their safety and general well being in New Zealand.

The event, which had the full support of the Indian High Commission (IHC), witnessed a strong participation of about hundred recently-arrived international students along with other members of the Kiwi-Indian community.

While the immediate goal of the event was to educate and sensitise the recently arrived international students about the Kiwi-life, the bigger and an overarching goal was to build bridges between them and the older migrants who have settled well in the country and organised through long-established community associations.

Speaking to The Indian Weekender, President of NZICA, Bhikhu Bhana said, “We appreciate the good work already being done by agencies like NZ government, NZ Police, Migrant services, in helping our students in the country.

“We [NZICA and IHC] have no intention of duplicating their work!”

“Rather what we want to emphasise is to make our students aware of the community spirit that prevails within our different community organisations.”

“It is given that any person, whether a student or not, feels secure and re-assured when being with their own community,” Mr Bhana asserted.

This was further explained by Hon. Consul of India, Bhav Dhillon, who said, “From our perspective, we want to build bridges between students and the community.

“I encourage every student to take time and meet these community leaders present here, who represent different states and regions of India.

“They are your foster parents while you are in the new country.

“We want better interaction between existing communities here and the students,” Mr Dhillon said emphasising the importance of connecting students with community leaders.

The forum brought in expert-speakers from several key stakeholders in overall student well-being, including NZ Police, Ministry of Business, Innovation & Enterprise (MBIE), Indian High Commission, and Licensed Immigration Advisor to deliver information on most important issues for students around job-search, safety, visa and Permanent Residence.

Safety emphasised

Leading on safety issues, Jessica Phuang from NZ Police, along with Constable Neal, delivered an informative presentation on how to be safe from crimes such as mugging, theft, robbery, sexual assault, domestic violence and mental harassment.

The duo also educated the newly arrived guests in this country about cultural sensitivity and position of law in New Zealand on issues of self-defense, proportionate force and importance of consent in an intimate relationship.

The sense of gasp exhibited in the room was a stark reflection of the point that this was indeed a revelation for many new international students.

Hon. Consul of India, Bhav Dhillon further emphasised on two important aspects around the safety of international students in community – road and water safety.

“Generally we only come to know when things go wrong, and I would like to emphasise the importance of being safe in New Zealand roads and water, as both are very tempting,” Mr Dhillon said appealing more caution.

“I would call upon all our students to register themselves in the website called Madad, which is an initiative of the Ministry of External Affairs,” Mr Dhillon further added.

Message out to students in regional languages

One major point of difference in this forum by NZICA, from several similar earlier efforts, was getting community leaders from different regional and cultural associations together on one platform, and relay a message in their own regional languages so as to ensure that our recently arrived international guests could better relate to people who speak their own language.