Asians in NZ subjected to racism, study finds

14.09.05 1.00pm

Many Asians living in New Zealand are subjected to some form of racism, a new study has found. The Asia New Zealand Foundation report, Engaging Asian Communities in New Zealand, revealed the most common form of racism was verbal abuse and rude gestures, often by teenagers or children.

Overt racism included damage to cars identifiable as Asian-owned, having bottles or stones thrown at them, and being mocked for poor pronunciation.

Asia New Zealand's research director, Dr Rebecca Foley, said the main purpose of the research was to look at ways that engagement between various Asian communities and other communities happened -- "or does not happen, as the case may be". "It is disturbing that most participants in the research had experienced some form of racism," she said.

"But at the same time, it is heartening that there are so many private and public agencies offering a wide variety of programmes that migrants find useful." The report's authors -- Terry McGrath, Dr John Pickering, Dr Hilary Smith and Dr Andrew Butcher -- based their study on 17 focus groups held with 94 participants from a range of Asian communities.

Many participants reported being the victims of more "subtle" types of racism. In employment, for instance, some felt they missed out on jobs and promotions because of their ethnicity, and workmates pretended not to understand them or patronised them.

Some Asians reported being deliberately misunderstood in shops, cafes or a supermarket "in order to humiliate", being snubbed by other mothers in schools when greeting their children and being avoided in public places, like a swimming pool.

Wellington Chinese Association president Steven Young said he was "not surprised" by the report's findings, but it was disappointing for new migrants to find themselves not wholly accepted.

"Racism is not so much a problem for Asian New Zealanders who have grown up here and gone through the school system and have Kiwi speech patterns," he said.

"But with the larger influxes of migrants in recent years, particularly into areas which haven't traditionally seen many migrants, prejudice has come to the fore."

Some people also felt threatened by the way in which these new migrants were often highly skilled and moving out of "more traditional roles" into professional positions in society, he said. Dr Foley said the report went beyond research on what problems Asian migrants face and examined what worked in terms of engaging with the host community.

There was no "silver bullet" programme in existence but the research would help people take a wider view of what was needed to form a socially cohesive society, she said. There were 17 focus groups, made up of a range of nationalities, including Chinese, Singaporean, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Sri Lankan and Indian.