International Migrants Day – CHCH Resettlement Services

Kia ora everyone,

As some of you may know, Friday the 18th of December is International Migrants Day.

With that said, I would like to celebrate the wonderful work the Social Work team from Christchurch Resettlement Services ( do within the migrant and refugee community in Christchurch where a number of our members work.

The services that Christchurch Resettlement Services provide are:

  • Bilingual Community Work – this team consists of people from the 5 largest refugee communities, providing cultural, linguistic and community-based support to clients from refugee backgrounds and staff across all areas of service delivery, thereby enhancing access to services.
  • Social Work – individual and family support around earthquake recovery and resettlement issues; mental health assessment, intervention and support; family-centred family violence support, support to young people at risk. These services are provided for individuals and families from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Interpreters are contracted on an as needed basis for the cultural and linguistic needs not provided for by the Bilingual Community Workers.
  • Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Counselling – counselling for people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds, either in their mother tongue, or with the support of an interpreter.
  • Health Promotion – working with local refugee communities and young people to improve social inclusion and wellbeing for people from refugee backgrounds.
  • Living Well in Christchurch – Bilingual Tutor and Childcare Service – in partnership with English Language Partners, who provide an English language literacy programme for primarily pre-literate refugee background women and men.
  • Earthquake Support Co-ordinators – a Government and NGO collaborative providing support to households directly affected by the earthquakes, through helping home owners develop recovery plans. ESCs assist people with information, connect clients with relevant services, and coordinate meetings between clients and the services


CRS Social Workers


I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the team on Tuesday morning – getting to know them and the services they offer. The first thing you notice when you meet the team is the almost palpable intensity of their commitment and undying passion they have for their clients and the service they provide the families they work alongside.


The team is made up of:

  • Shirley Wright – General Manager for the last 8 years and at CRS for 18 years
  • Gail Moore – Senior Social Worker with responsibilities that include Clinical oversight for the counselling team, supervisor for the Social Work staff and works generically across all the services. 11 years at CRS
  • Maryanne Cosgrove – Social Work Assistant and 18 years at CRS
  • Asha King – Social Worker and currently working in the Earthquake Support Co-ordinators team. 3 years at CRS
  • Denise Huisman – Family Social Worker working within the Mental Health, Family Violence, Youth Mental Health, Youth at Risk and Disabilities areas. 7 years at CRS
  • Melissa Sheehan – Social Worker working within the Mental Health, Family Violence, Youth at Risk and Earthquake Support Co-ordinators areas. 6 years at CRS
  • Jo Fasheun – Social Worker, Leader of the Health Promotion team and organiser of the Youth Camps. 11 years at CRS.

You can tell by the tenure of the staff that they enjoy working there with Shirley, Jo, Denise and Melissa starting work at CRS straight after finishing their placement at CRS!

What motivated the team was a need to help disadvantaged people and a love for different cultures ran deeply within all of them. The team said their work around social justice and advocating for their clients basic human rights as ‘nourishing their soul’. They especially found working with refugee people as ‘quite spiritual’, as refugee journeys are full of stories of courage, hardship, trauma, fear and survival, which CRS believes is made possible through strong cultural and spiritual identities held by refugee communities.

One of the key issues facing their clients is the lack of ‘equity of access’ to any of the services normally available to the average New Zealander. Access to interpreters was also another major challenge. The team said their clients are often very isolated and they have limited or no knowledge of how they can access services, you then add a language barrier and it multiplies their plight exponentially.

As passionate as they are about their work and clients they are equally as vocal when it comes to the role that inflexible policies and structural issues created by Central Government play in the lives of the migrant community. One member of the team saw it as an indictment on the Government when migrants are encouraged to migrate to New Zealand as a way of increasing the country’s GDP and then expected to access mainstream services with minimal specific migrant support services being made available.

The team thought that (apart from more money being given to the sector), a social education program designed for the New Zealand public and business sectors may help in breaking down some of those cultural barriers and help foster inclusiveness within the community. The team also thought the fact that a lot of migrants arrived in New Zealand with a qualification, which could not be used within New Zealand, was also a factor that held the community back from moving forward and integrating quicker.

CRS actively supports membership to the ANZASW and sees that Indemnity Insurance, and working to standardised code of ethics and practice principles as basic requirements for all CRS Social Work staff.

Nga mihi