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Wintec is committed to diversity and inclusion

Grad19

Wintec’s popular marae graduation on Friday 15 March was attended by a diverse range of graduates from New Zealand and around the world.

Asalaam Alaikum,

There possibly could not have been a stronger juxtaposition of experiences, and emotion than last Friday. In the morning, we celebrated our first 2019 Wintec graduation event, at Te Kōpū Mania o Kirikiriroa Marae on Wintec’s city campus. It was a real celebration of student success and a strong reflection of the amazing diversity of our students and the multicultural nature of Wintec. It was tremendously uplifting and a real joy to be part of.

The events in Christchurch later that same day, could not have come from a place more opposite.  I hope that we in our lifetimes never have to hear or experience such tragedy on this scale again.

The senseless death of so many New Zealanders is tragic enough. For one community to be targeted because of their identity, their religion, their background is appalling. For it to be specifically targeted at their place of worship and during Friday prayers is unspeakable.

We have a great many Muslim students and staff at Wintec, many of whom may be deeply impacted by this, and tragically, some of whom may have very close links to those directly involved.

Our thoughts are with all those affected.

I attended the Hamilton Love to Christchurch vigil on Saturday and I know a number of staff did also. It was a very moving event and one, I know, that made a real difference to the local Muslim community. On Sunday I also attended the open-day at Hamilton’s Jamia Masjid Mosque (again, as did other staff, and thank you to those who did) and spoke with Dr Mohsin, the local community leader and others. It was an important opportunity to engage with our local Muslim community, to support our students and staff, and to underscore our ongoing commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion.

Today, we held a special event to help and support anyone to come to terms with the events that have unfolded in the Long Room, Wintec House. This included a mihi/welcome, a recitation of the Koran, words by Imam and Wintec staff member Dr Ahmed Saleh, and prayer.  

On Wednesday we will gather for a special karakia (blessing) at Te Kōpū Mania o Kirikiriroa marae on the Wintec city campus at 12.15pm to acknowledge this tragic event. Invitations to this event will be shared via our website and Wintec’s Facebook pages. All staff, students and members of the public are welcome to attend and to contribute words of prayer and song. I hope to see as many people there that can attend, to stand together against hatred, violence and terrorism, and to reinforce our support for each other and for our Muslim staff and students.

We intend to hold a commemorative event and we are still considering what that may look like. Meanwhile, we will acknowledge our Muslim community at our remaining graduation ceremonies this week. Graduation is a special time for our students and we will uphold this and continue to celebrate their success in the face of this tragedy.

Indeed, the successful graduation of so many students from so many backgrounds, has to be seen, in part, as a very fitting response to the hatefulness and ignorance underlying Friday.

But more importantly, this cannot become something we acknowledge and then move on from. At the end of the day, I am convinced that our best response to these events, and the best way for us to contribute to the efforts to make sure this does not happen again, is to put all of our efforts in to promoting diversity and inclusion. One group was targeted on Friday. It could have been another.

We need to build an even more inclusive society. Our role in that is to be an open and inclusive organisation, where all staff and students are welcome, safe, and encouraged to reach their potential irrespective of religion, culture, ethnicity, disability, age, colour, sexual orientation, gender or the language they speak.

We are committed to building on what we have here at Wintec. That’s our best way of acknowledging Friday – though ongoing positive action and a zero tolerance approach to exclusion and intolerance. We will do that.

As we move through this week and beyond, let’s look out for each other. If you need help, seek it out. There is support in place for staff and students who may need help, particularly our many Muslim students and staff, but also all our international students and partners:

  • Contact our external counselling service Benestar on 0800 360 364 to speak with a trained counsellor. Please just identify yourself as being from Wintec if using this service.
  • Text 1737 for the free national "Need to talk" counselling phone line. 
  • Email safetyandwellbeing@wintec.ac.nz to request any assistance or support.
  • For our international students, our International Student Support team can be contacted on 021-703-730

Ngā mihi

David Christiansen
Wintec Acting Chief Executive