Mi­grants vote for first time

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - ELE­SHA ED­MONDS

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.

ELE­SHA ED­MONDS / FAIR­FAX NZ

Mona Dar­wi­ish, Naima Ali, Fetiya Mo­hammed and Whit­ney Jes­sett are vot­ing in Auck­land’s lo­cal elec­tions.

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