When Vijeshwar and Pushpa Prasad came to Whanganui in 1989 they didn't get much help to integrate into the community.

"We were left to our own devices. It was very hard," Pushpa Prasad said.

They were especially worried about their two girls finding other Fijian Indian children to associate with, and retaining their Hindi language. They started an Indian cultural group to meet the need of themselves and others.

Later it morphed into an organisation for all ethnic communities, and most recently changed its name to the Multicultural Council of Rangitīkei/Whanganui. It holds monthly meetings with speakers and potluck dinners, and organises an annual Diwali Cultural Night and an annual marae visit for new migrants.


At its annual general meeting last week, Vijeshwar Prasad resigned from his role as president.

"A time comes when you feel you have said enough. You have exhausted all your ideas. Better give it to new people with new ideas," he said.

His wife Pushpa is the new president, and said she is completely her own person.

"My ideas are very different from him and sometimes we do have big arguments."

She teaches English to people on work permits or temporary visas who can't get help from other organisations. And she's a good listener, and available to counsel people and advocate for them.

She's against family violence, and says most differences can be worked out if people stick with it.

"There's always a means to rectify things, and find solutions.

Vijeshwar Prasad is still on the multicultural council's committee, with Sairusi Delai, Teena Lawrence, Paras Rawat, Geeta Singh and Balvindar Kaur. He'd like to work with elders and prevent younger family members exploiting them for their labour or money.


There are 36 different ethnic groups in Whanganui, he said, and 24 are already active. Muslim people are among those missing out - because they come in from so many different countries, and because they tend to be more private.

In Rangitīkei, Marton has about 80 Samoan families, and now its first Samoan JP.

She wants to make Race Unity Day, celebrated for the first time on March 16, an annual event and opportunity to learn.

She can be contacted on 343 1031 or 021 025 40709, or by calling at 137 Anzac Pde. The council also has a website, wanganuimulticultural.co.nz.