Dunedin presence at equity event

Dr Ambika Kohli

Shakti Dunedin representatives will join peace activists from New Zealand and Australia in Auckland next week for a transtasman conference on racial equity.

Entitled “Let’s Deal With It!”, the one-day conference has been organised by the national Shakti Community Council in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks.

Shakti Dunedin Women’s Safety Intervention Services co-ordinator Dr Ambika Kohli said the June 14 event aimed to promote important discussions about human rights for ethnic communities, media bias, extremism, white supremacy, and other pressing issues.

Dr Kohli said such a national conversation was important for Dunedin, which was growing in diversity as more migrants and former refugees made the city their home.

“We want to start a conversation in the hope of forging unity amidst our diversity and making our countries free of prejudice, racism, and hate-based crime,” she said.

“It is also important to focus on active citizenship, where NGOs, organisations, and the community work towards living in a violence free society.”

The work of Shakti Dunedin, which specialised in women’s development, empowerment, and domestic/family violence prevention, had continued to increase, Dr Kohli said.

These were often complex situations, made more difficult by cultural and language issues.

Dr Kohli said three months after the Christchurch terror attacks on March 15, in which 51 people died, the long-term impact of the events was being felt.

“A lot of people in the Dunedin community were directly affected by the Christchurch attacks, and are still experiencing a sense of fear,” she said.

“And this is not only limited to the migrant and refugee community – it has affected people from all communities.”

Shakti had arranged vigils and had provided extra counselling and support for affected families.

The transtasman conference, organised by the Shakti Community Council in association with Auckland Peace Action, Khadija Leadership Network and Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga, will be held at the Mount Eden War Memorial Hall in Auckland on June 14.

Open to all, the event will include high-level speakers such as Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa, New Zealand MPs Jan Logie and Golriz Ghahraman, Australian MPs Dr Samantha Ratnam and Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel, author Nicky Hager, and International Human Rights lawyer Diana Sayed.

“We want to engage the community in this initiative, and we’d like to see political willingness to support change,” Shakti founder Farida Sultana said.

Dr Kohli, who is attending with Shakti Dunedin chairwoman Fauzia Bashir and Shakti volunteers hoped that other Dunedin people, who may be travelling to Auckland next week, would also go along.

“When we return, we will be sharing what we have learned with our Dunedin community,” she said.