Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Minorities don't get fair go - watchdog

The Human Rights Commission says that the one-size-fits-all system fails Maori, Pacific and ethnic communities. Photo / Dean Purcell
The Human Rights Commission says that the one-size-fits-all system fails Maori, Pacific and ethnic communities. Photo / Dean Purcell

Structural discrimination is a "real and ongoing issue" and Maori, Pacific and ethnic people are not getting a fair go in New Zealand, a Human Rights Commission report says.

The report - A Fair Go for All? - is being launched at the Diversity Forum in Auckland today.

Minority groups are being disadvantaged by the country's one-size-fits-all system in public services, which does not account for different needs and values, the report says.

"Put simply, Maori, Pacific peoples and ethnic communities are not getting a fair go in New Zealand's justice, health and education systems," said Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres.

"The evidence is that a monocultural approach continues to fail Maori, Pacific and ethnic communities."

Some communities have problems accessing systems and services here because of structural barriers, the report says.

Key social indicators point to significant inequalities between ethnic groups in New Zealand, the report says, with life expectancy for Maori and Pacific people lower than for Europeans.

The unemployment rate for Maori is 13.9 per cent, 16 per cent for Pacific people and 5.6 per cent for Europeans, the report says.

Despite Europeans making up 68 per cent of the population, only 33 per cent of those in prison are Europeans. That compares with 49 per cent Maori and 11.3 per cent Pacific - yet they make up only 15 per cent and 7 per cent respectively of the overall population.

The report aims to encourage discussion about initiatives to address inequalities by creating systemic change and to facilitate discussion between government agencies.

The commission consulted government agencies and organisations, including ministries, the police, Corrections, Te Puni Kokiri (Maori Development ministry) and the Qualifications Authority, for the report.

Mr de Bres said addressing structural discrimination within public services would mean questioning the ways things were being done and had been done. Studies had shown that targeted programmes had the greatest impact on improving unequal outcomes.

"Unfortunately, negative political opinion is sometimes used to erode small gains, programmes are shut down after only a few years' implementation, targeted funding is cut and a refusal to see inequality in terms of ethnicity, despite evidence to the contrary, drives policy development."

Unemig, a migrant workers union launched at the forum yesterday, is one initiative that promises to address inequalities affecting a minority group andtake on employers who exploit migrant workers.

Unemig co-ordinator Dennis Maga said the organisation would assist migrant workers on issues relating to employment, immigration and human rights.

"Migrant workers are easily exploited because employers know many will not complain because they fear losing their jobs and working visas and having to face deportation," he said.

"Now, they have a body they can turn to which will help investigate these exploitative practices and help them access the work conditions they have every entitlement to."

Mr Maga said membership of Unemig, costing $2.35 a week, was open to all migrant workers - including international students and those in the sex industry - who did not have a union representing them.

- NZ Herald

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