Friday, October 8, 2010

A Waikato welcome

This week the question of who is a New Zealander has been hotly debated.

On Friday the powhiri to welcome the latest refugee group to settle in Hamilton showed that in this city we are embracing a multicultural society well. The powhiri is now a well-established tradition supported by Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa, people from ethnic groups, settlement support agencies and the volunteers who support their work. Hamilton is the only centre in New Zealand - thus far - to do so.

Our newest refugee group are Burmese who spent their first six weeks in their new country at the Mangere Centre.

Refugee Services manager, Rachel O'Connor's confident karanga of welcome rang out clear and strong. Ismail Gamadid from the Somali community and Refugee Forum began his welcome in fluent Maori and continued in expressive English. Kaumatua were supported by waiata which included a Burmese song. When the Burmese speaker told of the long and difficult journey from Burma to New Zealand and their hope for a better future he did so in quiet, eloquent English. I was not the only one moved to tears.