Multicultural New Zealand - a welcome home for Filipinos and all migrants
(Picture caption: Ambassador Gary Jesus Domingo with the Principal and Filipino-Kiwi students of St. Benedict's School, Kandallah, Wellington)
I have the great honour and privilege of serving as Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand. My term in Wellington began in April 2016. I have lived most of my life in the foreign service, as a son of a Philippine diplomat, and now as a foreign service officer myself. Having lived in, studied and worked all over the world: in the United States, in Europe, in the Middle East, and Asia – I can say with confidence that Aotearoa – New Zealand is one of the best if not the best home for Filipinos and migrants in general overseas.
Everywhere I go, Kiwis have told me of how they appreciate the kindness and hard-working nature of their Filipino workmates, classmates and neighbours. In turn, Filipinos here have shared with me the wonderful welcome they receive from Kiwis, and how they thrive in this country. Or course there are negative incidents – but these are far fewer in absolute and relative terms as compared to other migrant destination countries.
The success of Filipino-Kiwi youth in New Zealand is striking. In my first year here, I had the privilege of addressing the outstanding graduates of Marcellin College in Auckland. We hit the “Grand Slam” so to speak – the Dux, Head Boy and Head Girl were all Kiwipinos. So, I awarded them trophies in recognition of their wonderful achievements. Then, both to my delight and horror, I learned that there were many such Kiwipinos all over New Zealand winning top honours. The Embassy would soon become bankrupt if we were to award all of them with trophies!
The environment of New Zealand clearly allows us to maximize our inherent potential as individuals and families. This is a view shared by practically all the migrant communities I’ve had the chance to meet with.
What are the reasons for the welcoming environment of New Zealand?
A key factor is the fundamental principle of fairness. American history professor David Hackett Fischer, in his comparative study of the United States and New Zealand titled Fairness and Freedom, wrote that fairness is this country’s “central creed” and “guiding ideal.” In the early 19th Century, British Colonial Office head Sir James Stephen decreed, “The two Cardinal points to be kept in view in establishing a regular colony in New Zealand are, first, the protection of the aborigines, and secondly the introduction among the colonists of the principle of self-government, to the utmost extent in which that principle can be reconciled with allegiance to the crown.” This is quite a contrast to the prevailing sentiment among colonial and post-colonial regimes. (source: https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/fairness-and-freedom-a-history-of-two-open-societies-new-zealand-and-the-united-states-david-hackett-fischer/)
Indeed, the very spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi framework between the Crown and the Māori people is that it is a treaty between two peoples. This contrasts with many of the settlements between central regimes and indigenous communities wherein they tend to be frameworks of concession or even surrender. In my view, the Waitangi Treaty was to the extent possible under the circumstances of its time – and is - a framework of fairness. Yes, it has its challenges – but it remains a model framework. New Zealand has, through the 20th and 21st centuries, become a beacon of fairness in the world arena. It is the first country to have granted women the right to vote, it is an international leader in disarmament, humanitarianism, climate change and many other important advocacies.
The spirit of fairness also permeates New Zealand’s framework with regard to new migrants, and its efforts towards their integration into its society. Fairness manifests itself in that New Zealand opts to integrate rather than assimilate its newcomers – again in contrast to some other migrant destination countries. New Zealand’s supporting governance and social infrastructure for integration is a testament to fairness.
In particular, the country’s national-level Multicultural NZ and local multi-cultural and multi-ethnic councils and newcomers groups provide excellent platforms for representation and dynamic engagement for new migrants and ethnic communities. It is a source of great pride for me to see Filipino-Kiwis playing a leadership role in many of these councils and groups throughout the country. This publication, Multicultural Times, plays an important role as the communications and media platform for New Zealand’s multicultural and migrant communities. For my part I intend to introduce the Multi-Cultural Council concept to the Philippines.
Nga Mihi, Maraming Salamat Po!
- by Ambassador Gary Domingo
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of this newspaper, and the publication does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.