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Cultural diversity in Aotearoa

Cultural diversity in Aotearoa

Written by Professor Edwina Pio, University Director of Diversity, Auckland University of Technology, 05.04.17

Once upon a time, a young girl went to her tīpuna and asked, “What is leadership for cultural diversity?” The tīpuna responded, “It is the ability to open the doors to who we truly are.” 

Edwina Pio

Professor Edwina Pio

As a migrant woman I feel blessed to have been gifted fifteen years to wander amidst the giant pohutukawa trees in our lovely parks, and in my work nationally and internationally in universities and organisations, with a singular focus on diversity and marginality.

Yet there is an uneasy rustle in my being when I observe champions of conservatism bow to the altar of bureaucracy, and diverse people, fluent and adept in the language of entitlement, neglect to put back into the kete for the privilege of living in this country.

Moving beyond a tragic timidity

Organisations are reflections of their societies, in a complex weave of historical and socio-economic legacies—which in turn influence our diversity practices and strategies. No doubt, this is often picking one’s way along a narrow ledge.

In today’s New Zealand, we are diversely different. We live in a rearranged world where diversity is difference in its magnificent manifestations—yet as the Earth Charter notes, we are all one human family and one earth community.

Cultural diversity encourages us to move beyond a tragic timidity to act, based on the knowledge that there are 213 ethnicities in New Zealand and that the Maori, Pacific and Asian populations will continue to have a younger median age than other population groups.

For example in Auckland, our most populous city, the Māori population’s median age will increase from 24 years in 2013 to 29 years in 2038; Pacific population from 23 years to 28 years, European or other population from 39 to 43 years and the Asian population from 31 years to 37 years.

Cultural diversity in the workspace

Work is crucial for wellbeing, and cultural diversity is here to stay with a variety of ethnic populations making up our current and future workforce. 

There is need to move away from ad-hoc and Band-Aid solutions to honouring and respecting a multiplicity of voices through dialogic and courageous conversations which respect the mana of each person, through an abundance mind-set, woven into integrated platforms for diversity.

Workspace pointers include:

  1. Choosing wisdom or stewardship of our resources
  2. Remembering the past with an eye on the future to ensure continuity and connectivity
  3. Catching talent through navigating, scanning and locating diverse communities in Aotearoa
  4. Bursting with luminosity translated as well-being for self and others
  5. Weaving discipline through addressing difficult questions with continuous learning, innovation, reflection and humility

As carbon-based bi-ped life forms, we have choices. Do we want to continue the orthodoxies in our organisations and the communities we live in? Alternatively, we can weave new mental cartographies to swing and syncopate to the heterogeneous demographic mix that is growing in our beautiful island nation.

Image copyright: rafaelbenari / 123RF Stock Photo