Bhutanese community come together in first national gathering in Christchurch
Bhutanese Society of Nelson, NZ Inc
Maintaining their cultural identity, raising occupational skills and helping Bhutanese women get their drivers’ licence are just some of the issues discussed at the first joint meeting of the Bhutanese Societies of New Zealand.
Representatives from Nelson and Palmerston North were hosted by the Christchurch Bhutanese community in late February, with the discussion chaired by the President of the Bhutanese Society of Christchurch, Bashu Dev Mishra.
The group passed twelve resolutionscovering current concerns and common issues for Bhutanese people settling in New Zealand.
Chairman of the Nelson Bhutanese Society, Govina Regmi says some of the resolutions will be worked through within theBhutanese community, however many of them require external assistance.
“For instance we need to develop more intercommunity communication, so we have resolved to share items for a newsletter and teaching materials for our Nepali language classes,” Govinda says. “However, there are several areas where we need to enlist the support of various agencies, both government and non-government.”
Bhutanese refugees approved for residency fall under the Refugee Quota Programme, and in 2008 New Zealand made a commitment to resettle 750 Bhutanese refugees over a five-year period. Thatnumber has almost been reached, so the group has passed a resolution appealing to the government to review the situation.
“We feel we are the minority of minority groups and because we are such a small group in New Zealand, we are worried about our extinction,” Govinda says.
Another concern is the preservation of the Bhutanese documents, such as citizenship cards, land tax receipts and so on, that refugees bring to New Zealand. An archive is to be set up for this material so it will be available for future generations if they want to search where they came from.
Govinda says the period of mourning within Bhutanese culture also requires greater awareness, especially by employers.
“The mourning period may span from three to thirteen days,“ he says, “and while we are not asking employers for more paid bereavement leave than is legally allocated, we would like some flexibility around using annual leave or leave without pay.”
Other resolutions made by the group appeal to the government for more on-the-job training, flexibility in payment options for New Zealand Citizenship applications and initiatives to encourage young Bhutanese to become involved in sporting activities.
New Zealand has had an annual refugee resettlement quota of 750 places since 1987. Quota refugees are given permanent residence on arrival in New Zealand and spend their first six weeks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.
Govinda Regmi – President, Bhutanese Society of Nelson, NZ Inc