Migrant Community Reference Group
The Migrant Community Reference Group (the Group) is a dedicated forum for the Minister of Immigration to engage with perspectives from New Zealand’s migrant communities.
The Group was formed in March 2023 by the Minister of Immigration who chairs the meetings. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) provides secretariat services to the Group.
The role and objectives of the Group
The purpose of the Group is to provide a forum for regular two-way communication between the Minister of Immigration and a wide range of migrant communities to:
- share migrant communities’ experiences of the immigration system and perspectives on immigration (including strategy, policy, administration, and outcomes) to inform the Minister of Immigration’s medium-term priorities for the immigration system
- share the Minister of Immigration’s medium-term vision and priorities for the immigration system with migrant communities.
The role of the Group will be to discuss and share ideas. It will not set a work programme or be a forum to resolve individual immigration cases.
It is not intended that the Group will replace existing Ministerial engagement with stakeholders of the immigration regulatory system.
Terms of reference for the Migrant Community Reference Group
The structure of the Group
The Minister of Immigration has appointed 10 members to the Group.
In appointing members, the Minister of Immigration has considered the composition of New Zealand’s migrant population, the desire for two-way engagement with a wide range of these communities, the demographic composition of members, and the ability of members to provide helpful insights to inform medium-term priorities for immigration.
The Group will meet each quarter for up to 12 months, with the first meeting held on 21 March 2023. After this initial 12-month period, the Minister may re-assess the Group’s role and function.
The Minister of Immigration has appointed the following individuals as members of the Group, for the initial 12-month period:
Saimoni Lealea, MNZM
Sai has extensive experience in governance leadership across the private and public sectors, particularly relating to the Fijian community and wider Pasifika interests. His experience includes: Chair of the National Pacific Radio Trust (current), Chair of the Pacific Development & Conservation Trust (current), Chair of the Fijian Language Week Komiti (current), former Chair of the Pasifika Education Centre Board in Auckland, former Chair of the Pacific Advisory Group for Wellington City Council, and former Deputy Chair of the Wellington Fiji Social Services Trust.
Based in Wellington, his current role as Principal Director of SDL Consultancy involves the delivery of the Talanoa Ako Education programme for the Fijian community in Wellington and membership of the Pacific Reference Group for the Ministry of Social Development and the Pacific Advisory Forum of the NZ Police for the Wellington District. His broadcasting experience includes his work in translations and research into Pacific Broadcasting with NZ on Air. He is also a member of the External Steering Group for Immigration New Zealand’s Refugee and Migrant Settlement Strategy Refresh. He led the development of the National Fijian Wellbeing Plan for the Ministry of Social Development and has also trained government policy staff and community groups on the machinery of government and using Pacific policy analysis tools.
In 2018, Sai was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to Pacific communities.
Dr Kelly Feng, MNZM
Kelly is the Chief Executive of Asian Family Services, leading an organisation that provides a range of nationwide health and social services to the Asian community in New Zealand. After becoming a qualified medical doctor in China, she migrated to New Zealand in 2002 and for over a decade has made significant contributions to the mental health and addiction sector and social sector.
Kelly's background as a medical doctor in China and her subsequent registration as a social worker in New Zealand has given her a unique perspective and set of skills that she has utilised to great effect in her work. Her experience in mental health and addiction, as well as her commitment to serving the Asian community, has been the driving force behind her successful career.
Kelly's work in setting up the Asian Wellbeing Services social enterprise model has been particularly noteworthy, as it has helped to fill an important gap in culturally and linguistically appropriate psychological services for Asians living in New Zealand. Additionally, her leadership in numerous Asian-focused research projects has helped to raise awareness and understanding of the mental health needs of the Asian community.
Kelly's successful pilot of Asian Mental Health Services for Waitemata District Health Board in 2007 was another important achievement, highlighting her ability to create innovative solutions to address complex health issues. Her passion for the Asian community has been recognised when she was recently made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to health and Asian communities.
Manisha is the current Vice President of the NZ Indian Central Association, the only national umbrella body for regional Indian community groups in New Zealand (outside of faith-based groups), and the Vice President of the Wellington Indian Association. She has undertaken a number of roles in both organisations, and has a BSc and Post Graduate Diploma in Not For Profit Management from Unitec Institute of Technology. Manisha has strong background knowledge of the NZ Indian diaspora and cross-cultural experience, helping to bridge the gap of cultural differences.
She is an experienced exhibition curator and has 20 years’ experience in auditing, health and safety, and laboratory medicine.
Based in Wellington, she is advisor/ consultant to various sectors engaged in work relating to socially inclusive ethnic communities and workplace diversity and is currently working as the Curriculum and Resource Advisor for the Ministry of Education in the area of Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories.
Mitchell Pham, ONZM
Mitchell Pham is a Vietnamese-Kiwi technology business and social entrepreneur who originally arrived in New Zealand as a refugee at the age of 13. Based in Auckland, he is a director of CodeHQ (aka Augen Software Group) in New Zealand and Vietnam, and co-founder of the Kiwi Connection Tech Hub - a platform for NZ technology businesses to accelerate presence and engagement in South East Asia since 2016. He is also a director of Kiwi Web3 business Easy Crypto and strategic advisor to other private sector boards in NZ and overseas.
Outside of business activities, Mitchell served as Chair of Digital Council for Aotearoa NZ, NZTech, FinTechNZ and NZ ASEAN Business Alliance. He is currently Chair of the NZ Asia Institute and Global Co-chair of KEA, Entrepreneur-In-Residence at the University of Auckland Business School, and Chair of the External Steering Group for Immigration New Zealand’s Refugee and Migrant Settlement Strategy Refresh.
Mitchell has been involved with the board of the Asia New Zealand Foundation since 2005, and currently serves as an Honorary Advisor. He also served as an NZTE Beachheads Advisor in technology business for South East Asia.
Internationally, Mitchell is recognised as a World Class New Zealander by KEA, Asia21 Fellow and Global Council Member of the Asia Society, Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and Honorary Fellow of CPA Australia (FCPA).
On new year's day 2023, Mitchell received a royal honour as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for his services to the technology sector and New Zealand-Asia relations.
Dr Margriet Theron, ONZM
Dr Margriet Theron has been President of the Rotorua Multicultural Council since 2016, and a member for more than 20 years.
Margriet came to Rotorua from South Africa in 1978. After retiring from a career in science management at the NZ Forest Research Institute and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, and as Dean of Forestry at Waiariki Institute of Technology, she took on governance roles at the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Rotorua, Speech New Zealand, Geyser Community Foundation, Community Foundations of NZ and Student Pulse. She was Project Manager for the fundraising and building of the Turangi Community Health Centre, and a member of the Rotorua District Council’s Bright Economy Advisory Board and the East Coast Bay of Plenty Conservation Board.
She teaches a Professional Speaking for Migrants course for the Rotorua Multicultural Council and a Professional Speaking for GPs course for overseas qualified doctors. In 2023 she completed a Certificate in Intercultural Communication at Victoria University of Wellington.
In 2022, Margriet became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to science and the community.
Anita Mansell, QSM
Anita is a former President and current Board Member of the Hutt Multicultural Council. In these roles, Anita has revived the women’s group, organised the ethnic community to participate in the Lower Hutt City Christmas Parades, and organised the Race Unity Day.
Since moving to New Zealand from the Philippines in 1983, Anita has worked to raise the profile of the Filipino community and the immigrant community. She has been a member of various local and central government initiatives such as the National Police Ethnic Strategy and refugee health and wellbeing forums. She has held executive positions on a number of committees including the Wellington Filipino Society, the Human Rights International Film Festival, and the Women’s Council of the New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils.
In 2011, Anita received a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) for services to the Filipino community.
Abdur is a highly respected elder in the Muslim community, with over 45 years of voluntary community service. He is a founding member of the Federation of Islamic Associations (FIANZ), the national Muslim umbrella organisation. He is also the Research and Advocacy lead of FIANZ.
In the wake of the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques, Abdur was the chairperson to the Royal Commission of Inquiry on behalf of FIANZ. He was also appointed to the Royal Commission Muslim Reference Group. In 2022, he was appointed by the lead Coordinating Minister to be a member of Kāpuia, the Ministerial Advisory Group on the Government’s Response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques
Vikram is the current President of the New Zealand International Students’ Association.
Vikram is a passionate individual when it comes to advocacy, rights and justice.
Vikram came to New Zealand in 2018 from Singapore with his partner as an international student at the University of Canterbury (UC), to study a Bachelor of Criminal Justice.
Vikram is the eldest of three siblings and the sole breadwinner for his family, having lost both parents.
At UC, he was a UniLife Leader, providing support, pastoral care, and a voice on issues for both domestic and international mature students. His work was recognised with a Blues Award from UC Students Association in 2021, for Outstanding Achievement in Community Engagement.
Vikram is a member of the Ethnic Advisory Group established by Asian Family Services, which aims to provide quality advice from the ethnic lived experience perspective to inform the health and social strategies of other publicly funded agencies.
Lealiifanovalevale Erolia Eteuati Rooney (“Erolia”)
Erolia is a Registered Medical Laboratory Scientist with the Blood Service and is currently on secondment with Te Whatu Ora as The Interim Regional Pacific Lead (Communities/Providers) Te Waipounamu in the Pacific Health Directorate.
Erolia grew up in Samoa and now lives in Otepoti with her husband Brenton and 2 young adult children. The aiga has grown with nieces and nephews coming to study at the University of Otago.
Erolia’s drive is equity and equality for Pasifika communities in Aotearoa. Erolia is a well-respected leader in the Pasifika communities. “Lealiifanovalevale” is a Chiefly title. She has been a member of various Pasifika advisory committees and support groups, including: The Otago Polytechnic External Pasifika Advisory Committee, the Otepoti Community Pasifika Support Group for the Dunedin City Council. She is also involved in Co-hosting Pasifika programmes on Otago Access Radio.
Mikee has a trade union background and is the Chair of Migrante Aotearoa; a grass-roots, non-profit organisation focused on advancing the rights and welfare of Filipino Migrants in New Zealand. He is also the Coordinator of the Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG via FIRST Union).
Mikee’s advocacy is driven by his own lived experiences as a first-generation migrant from the Philippines. Migrante Aotearoa and UNEMIG have been at the frontlines of legislative reform campaigns for better employment rights and protection for migrant workers.
Mikee regularly provides media commentary around INZ’s services, immigration settings, and migrant welfare.
Last updated: 21 March 2023