Living In Two Worlds

In the last two decades, we have witnessed dramatic change in the demographic composition of Aotearoa New Zealand (ANZ). Now, 1 in every 4 residents were born overseas. As a result, society looks very different today than it did three decades ago and as ethnic migrant, refugee, and religious communities continue to grow, their ethnicities, cultures and beliefs bring a multicultural layer to the existing bi-cultural legal framework under the Treaty of Waitangi.

While this situation brings many opportunities for inter- and intra-group contact, understanding and relationships, it also brings challenges, particularly for the children of first and second generation ethnic migrants and former refugees. These young people are often referred to as ‘living in two worlds’: that of their parents’ original culture and the world of their country of settlement: Aotearoa New Zealand. These young people exhibit many strengths such as multilingualism, adaptability and resilience, but can also struggle to meet parental or community expectations of them, while also attempting to integrate into their host society and fit in with their friends.

This phenomenon is common in other third country resettlement contexts also and can affect young people’s sense of belonging, ability to exercise their resident or citizenship rights, or feel safe and empowered. There is also often misunderstanding within the host society about the experiences they face, and this can lead to negative judgements, discrimination or worse.

In response to this situation, we have decided to facilitate an open conversation between young people from refugee-backgrounds and postgraduate students interested in forced migration and refugee resettlement.

We hope the panel, discussion and shared food will create a safe space where speakers can openly share their experiences of navigating two (and in some cases three) worlds and be listened to with empathy. By encouraging the speakers to be real about their experiences, we are seeking depth over breadth thereby allowing them to share their stories fully and with nuance. The formal facilitated discussion (Q&A and small group conversations) will also create a more intimate learning space for Victoria University of Wellington postgraduate students, and the informal extended discussions over food may stimulate deeper connections and potential future collaborations or friendships.

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