Simon Draper's
July 2017 Update

Embedding Māori engagement

At a recent hui we had at Taheke Marae in Rotorua, Foundation staff and some members of the Leadership Network's Māori Caucus (te Kahui Māori) discussed how the Foundation can further embed Māori engagement into our work, with a vision to weaving it into our everyday practice.

This was the first time in the Foundation’s two-decade history that our staff and stakeholders had engaged in this conversation, in this way. I am really proud of my team’s commitment to incorporating this important work into their programmes.

Some of the hui participants gathered in front of the meeting house at Taheke Marae in Rotorua

Our data tells us many New Zealanders lack confidence in engaging with Asia and Asian peoples. We also know that we become more confident if we can articulate our own identity and place in the world. Part of this picture is understanding New Zealand’s bicultural identity and the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in our work. 

I remember during the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang earlier this year, the Chinese visitors had an immediate connection with the Maori cultural components at the Auckland gala lunch. During the pōwhiri , the kapa haka group representing Premier Li's delegation received spontaneous applause when they sang in Chinese. Indeed, there's much to learn from Māori engagement with Asia.

I thank the members of the Caucus for making time to be with us and for their guidence. They are pleased with the Foundation’s desire to engage more coherently with Māori and have strongly encouraged us to give it a go, with a kind note that they will support us and understand even if we get some things wrong along the way.

Thanks also to our Chairman Hon John Luxton, a former Minister of Māori Affairs, and to Traci Houpapa, one of our honorary advisers, who both joined us and shared valuable insights. 

Conversations on Asia across the ditch

Earlier this month, I visited Australia and had the opportunity to get a sense of the Asian narrative there. My overall impression was there is a sharper debate happening in Australia about its relationship with Asia than we're having here. While debate is natural and healthy, what was most troubling for me was how polarised it was.

New Zealand should learn from what’s going on across the Tasman and avoid such polarisation. New Zealand’s connectivity with Asia is increasing economically, socially and culturally. As a society, we must be able to discuss calmly, rationally and respectfully our changing environment and demographics. You can read more about my thoughts on this in my 17 July Fairfax column.

Thanks also to our Leadership Network members in Canberra and Melbourne – Samson Phommachack, Ajay Ravindran, Elaine Pratley, and Areti Metuamate – who made time to meet with us. It was great to hear how these young Kiwi leaders are doing - achieving fantastic things in their respective endeavours. Ka pai!

Track 1.5 dialogue in Wellington

We recently hosted Dr Aries Arugay of the University of the Philippines. Dr Arugay is a leading light in ASEAN’s international relations community and a good friend of the Foundation. His visit was supported by MFAT’s Seriously Asia Fund, and included engagements in Christchurch and Wellington with officials, academics and students.

Dr Aries Arugay discusses some of the hot topics affecting the Philippines, ASEAN and touches on New Zealand's relations with our Southeast Asian neighbours

It’s always interesting to hear what our Asian partners think of New Zealand and what role we can play in the region. For further insights, check out our interview with Dr Arugay here.

Leadership Network induction

The Foundation welcomed 43 talented young Kiwi leaders into our Leadership Network over the weekend. They join an illustrious group of young professionals who are emerging leaders in their respective fields and who recognise that a strong understanding of Asia will be vital to their future careers.

The calibre of this new intake is impressive and diverse - working across a range of sectors and industries including education, the arts, engineering, business, media, government, and NGOs.  

Teaser on school leavers survey

Finally, next week the Foundation is releasing the 2016 school leavers survey Losing Momentum – School Leavers’ Asia Engagement. An update on the initial survey the Foundation commissioned in 2012, this survey looks at the Asia-readiness of our school leavers.

The report is very data rich, and will be a great resource for educators and officials. But the results are very sobering – and certainly challenge the notion that New Zealanders are ‘Asia-savvy’.

Just to give you a teaser, fewer than one in four of our school leavers believe Asia-related knowledge and skills will be important for New Zealand’s future workforce – a significant fall from when we last asked this question four years ago. This despite the fact that our country’s present and future – economically, culturally and socially – are tied to Asia. I will discuss this in more detail in next month’s update.