14 October 2023 is the day of the General Election in Aotearoa New Zealand. Many of us who have grown up in a democracy might take voting for a political party whose vision and values we believe in for granted.
As a team that comes from migrant and refugee backgrounds and works with ethnic communities, HOST International is acutely aware that not everyone has grown up with that right to have a say.
Particularly refugee background communities come from backgrounds where the reason of having to uproot their families and flee their home countries is because of political systems that are anything but democratic.
A lack of tolerance for different opinions, critical debate, support for opposition parties and corruption by parties in power, have led to coercion, threats, arrests and fear for their lives and their families for many who speak up or challenge the status quo.
Why voting in this year’s General Election matters
In Aotearoa New Zealand, ethnic community members have lower voter turn-out and are therefore at risk of further marginalisation.
HOST works with refugee and migrant background communities and host communities to build hope and inclusion. Our focus is on individual wellbeing, community cohesion and systems change.
Encouraging tino rangatiratanga self-agency contributes to an individual’s wellbeing, empowerment and independence. We promote community cohesion by collaborating locally to build sustainable inclusive communities.
For the General Election, HOST has teamed up with ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum, with the support from the Electoral Commission and Belong Aotearoa, on creating a series of videos in different languages for community members to share their first voting experience in New Zealand and to encourage others in their communities to vote.
The videos are live now and we ask that you share them with your communities:
How to get involved
You can be involved, too. We all play a role in making sure that everyone can exercise their right of civic participation and can exercise it safely.
Talk to your neighbours or any ethnic community members in your community about the election. Many may not know that they are eligible to vote in New Zealand as permanent residents* as in many other countries only citizens have the right to vote. They may not know that it is safe to vote in New Zealand or they don’t know how to enrol or vote.
If you are unsure what happens on voting day, watch this video:
You can also share this website so people can learn more about the different parties and how they might align with their values and needs:
Your first general election experience
Giselle Iradukunda, Community Sponsorship Coach at HOST, remembers her first election in New Zealand: “I first voted when I was 18 years old and at university, where we engaged in a debate about civic participation and learned that my vote and that of my fellow peers truly mattered.” She continues: “I was moved and inspired to vote because of these conversations. At the same time, I felt immense gratitude and gratefulness to be living in a country where youth voice truly mattered.”
When we act with manaakitanga and kotahitanga, support each other in our neighbourhoods and communities, we become stronger together. We want everyone’s voices to be heard and listened to. Enrolling and voting means you can have a say on the issues that affect you.
* You’re eligible to enrol and vote if you are 18 years or older, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and you’ve lived in New Zealand continuously for 12 months or more at some time in your life.
For electoral purposes, you are a permanent resident if you’re in New Zealand legally and not required to leave within a specific time.