Minority Voices

11:30am Sunday, December 6 on TV One

New local documentary series Minority Voices gives new New Zealanders the chance to introduce themselves to wider Aotearoa in their own words (today at 11.30am on TV ONE). This series is driven by new New Zealanders, and the many migrant and refugee groups entering Aotearoa today. It shows the issues faced by the emerging communities, presenting a collection of insightful, personal stories.

New Zealand’s cultural landscape is changing with the arrival of migrants from the furthest reaches of the globe, and the UN commitment to resettle and provide for up to 750 refugees a year. In New Zealand’s most recent census, 38,000 Kiwis culturally identified themselves as Middle Eastern, Latin American or African. It is these groups, along with a broad range of migrants outside the wider Pacific/Asian region, who feature on Minority Voices.

Many of these emerging communities thrive in New Zealand, enjoying political security and the educational opportunities on offer. Some enjoy success selling their traditional food, arts and crafts, or find themselves in demand with employers through their unique expertise. Others find life less satisfying, struggling through the language barrier to accomplish basic tasks such as buying food, finding a home and seeking medical help, or more challenging issues such as seeking trauma support, negative stereotyping and difficulty in earning a sustainable income.

Minority Voices producer and director Julia Parnell says she created the series to give new New Zealanders an opportunity to introduce themselves by sharing with wider Aotearoa their personal experiences settling here – in their own words. “I wanted to give our TV ONE audience an opportunity to meet – to hear – often for the first time, the voices of the many different cultures enriching New Zealand today.”

In 2006, Parnell became a refugee volunteer for a Burmese family. She says the first-hand interaction assisting a family to settle in Aotearoa opened her eyes to the changing cultural face of New Zealand, and the problems many face when assimilating into a new country. “I am still very close to this family; in fact I consider them my own whanau. But not all Kiwis will find themselves in such close contact with any of the new New Zealanders who arrive on our shores yearly. For them, these people remain distant and unfamiliar faces, despite being workmates or even immediate neighbours.”

“I see this series as a starting point for us to get to know each other. Once we understand the needs and the dreams of new New Zealanders (and how similar they are to our own), then work mates and neighbours, previously separated by the invisible barriers of understanding, may just see the worth in sharing an Ethiopian coffee – it is, after all, the best in the world!

Episode one meets passionate Ethiopian Dawit Arshak, who’s using his taxi as a vehicle for cultural exchange; El Salvadorian migrants Ana Maria and Ernesto Lopez, who are sparing no effort in helping their quick-footed son realise his dream of becoming one of New Zealand’s top soccer players; writer Haja Ali, a 17-year-old Afghani refugee, talks about the importance of finding a means of expression for new New Zealanders; and the Brazilian owners of Classic Beauty – a salon on Auckland’s Dominion Rd, that is adding some South American colour to the lives of their clientele.