Migrants vote for first time
It was Fetiya Mohammed’s young sons who encouraged her to vote in Auckland’s local body elections.
Aged 9 and 11, her sons had learnt about the local elections at school and wanted to know who she was voting for.
‘‘I actually went quiet for five minutes because I never think about voting or who I need to vote for,’’ Fetiya says. ’’Our voice is valid in New Zealand.’’
Back in Ethiopia, her country of origin, Fetiya says there was no reason to vote as the same political party would be in power for decades.
‘‘It doesn’t really matter who I vote [for] because at the end of the day whatever government is in, is going to be winning ... voting doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t be like that,’’ she says.
‘‘Here in New Zealand it is a different story but because we came from the background of culture we are kind of not sure.’’
It’s an issue that may affect some of the more than 40 per cent of Auckland residents who are from overseas. There are more than 220 ethnic communities in Auckland however the voting instructions are only published in 12 languages.
According to a recent survey released by Auckland Council, those of Asian, Samoan and nonEuropean ethnic descent are less likely to vote.
On the other hand, the survey showed 87 per cent of Auckland’s Indian population had an intention to vote this year. This was followed by 80 per cent of Maori and 78 per cent of New Zealand European who have signalled their intentions to vote.
Umma Trust manager Anne Lee works with Auckland’s refugee and migrant families and says the voting process is daunting - particularly for some migrant women.
‘‘Their English isn’t often very good so when the election package that arrives in their letterbox it’s not clear to them so they throw it out.’’
Lee has been working with a group of women to ensure they know how to vote and understand the candidates’ policies.
The trust’s youth programme coordinator Naima Ali says it helps when candidates are willing to go door-knocking and introduce themselves. The Mt Roskill resident says she was impressed by a candidate who left a flyer with an Islamic greeting at her door.
Mona Darwiish, Naima Ali, Fetiya Mohammed and Whitney Jessett are voting in Auckland’s local elections.