Inclusivity was a key message delivered by visiting guest Aleem Ali to a room of community leaders supporting the Welcoming Communities initiative. Ali, National Manager of Welcoming Cities Australia spent the day in the Ashburton District sharing with key groups and leaders key messages about the importance of attraction and retention of newcomers to support the success of a resilient and sustainable district.
Attracting newcomers, by challenging the negative discourse through positive messaging, was encouraged by Ali. However more important was the retention of newcomers once here through tangible and real inclusive actions driven by the community.
Like many regional towns across Australia, the Ashburton District faces demographic and economic challenges, including increasing labour demand and an ageing population. These challenges will give rise to continued sustained growth and prosperity over the long term. Fostering connections between newcomers and locals through inclusive practice has proven to be a key stepping stone toward revitalisation, sustained growth and harmony across many regional towns in Australia.
Ali commended the community on the existing work of business and community groups to promote and drive welcoming and inclusive best practice. He further commended the newly adopted Welcoming Plan, Whakatau mai ke te rōhe o Hakatere under the Welcoming Communities initiative, recognising it as an important driver of supporting even more welcoming practices, with the Plans success resting with the community.
Ashburton Mayor Donna Favel agrees, "Communities that connect and actively include people from different cultural backgrounds offer a greater quality of life for its residents and help people reach their full potential. We want to continue fostering the Ashburton district as a place of acceptance and inclusion and further build a resilient and vibrant community where everyone can be part of our economic, cultural social and civic life".
"The Ashburton District Welcoming Plan aims to encourage local communities to take a greater leadership role through inclusive activities and initiatives. Our Welcoming Plan affirms our Council and the district's commitment to work as one".
Developed between the community and Council, the Plan outlines activities structured around Immigration NZ's Standard for the Welcoming Communities programme including Inclusive Leadership; Connected and Inclusive Communities; Economic Development, Business and Employment; Welcoming Public Spaces; and Culture and Identity.
While in the district Ali, along with a delegation from Immigration NZ leading the Welcoming Communities initiative, participated in a number of activities. This included a pōwhiri at Hakatere Marae involving youth from the Ashburton College kapa haka group, presentations to the Mayor, Councillors and local Member of Parliament, Jo Luxton, guests of the local Muslim Association at the new mosque in Tinwald, a tour of the EA networks centre - a key facility driving inclusive and welcoming activities and discussions with local Sports Canterbury branch manager, Jan Cochrane about the importance of sport as an equaliser and activity to reduce barriers, remove isolation and generate inclusive practice.
Ashburton, together with Selwyn District Council is one of five areas across the country selected by Immigration NZ to pilot the Welcoming Communities programme. The Council hosted several community workshops throughout March to gather ideas from people and groups in the community to go in the Plan, and an online survey was also available.
To view the Ashburton District Welcoming Plan, visit www.welcomingcommunitiescanterbury.com or connect with the initiative on Facebook @WelcomingCommunitiesAshburtonDistrict