Amidst prejudice and disrespect, a community rises

Issue 371 June 15, 2017

About 30 years ago, a migrant from India would have had cause to feel depressed, stung by the trauma of relocation and settlement.

Getting a job that suited his or her qualifications and experience was not easy.

But going by the cliché that ‘everything by its time,’ most migrants would have reason to rejoice today, thanks not only to the increasing employment opportunities but also the persisting skills shortage that plagues the economy.

Wealth Creators

More important, those who have had the ‘get-up-and-go’ and shown the requisite initiative are pursuing their careers in their chosen profession. Among them are bankers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, teachers, real estate agents and many more.

But the new breed of wealth creators is those who have become entrepreneurs, establishing businesses as partnerships, family concerns or proprietary companies.

These would range from the ubiquitous dairies or superettes and car retailers to brokers and manufacturers. Their participation in the country’s economy has been acknowledged and continues to grow.

A significant milestone

This Leader offers its salutations to the early settlers from India, their immediate followers and the succeeding generations for their fortitude and perseverance. In essence, this Leader commemorates the 125th Anniversary of the arrival of the first settlers.

Details of the celebrations and a Photo Exhibition appears elsewhere in this issue.

Indians first settled in New Zealand in the late 1800s. Most of these early migrants came from the regions of Punjab and Gujarat and were temporary labourers. They numbered only a handful, an estimated 46 persons in 1896 and were listed in occupational statistics as peddlers, hawkers and domestics.

They were also overwhelmingly men. In 1896, only one Indian woman was listed as resident in New Zealand! Most of these early migrants did not intend staying here but wanted to earn money before returning home.

Migration increased until 1920, when the New Zealand Government introduced restrictions under a ‘permit system.’ By this time, there were just over 2000 Indians in New Zealand. The number of Indian women had grown to 142, as some of the Indian men living were sent home for their wives or, if they were single, for brides.

Birth of NZICA

In some places where Indians were perceived as ‘taking over,’ prejudices ran deep and lasted a long time. In Pukekohe, Indians were not allowed to join the local growers’ association, some landowners refused to lease them land and they were not allowed into the balcony seats of the picture theatre. Until 1958, only one barber’s shop in Pukekohe would cut the hair of Indians!

The discrimination Indian migrants encountered and their increased commitment to settling in New Zealand permanently, led to the formation of the New Zealand Indian Central Association in 1926.

The Association has completed 90 years of service to the community, which is yet another cause for celebration and accolades.

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