Celebrating Rachel, Lucy and Dennis on World Day of Social Justice

‘Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities. Social workers aim to open the doors of access and opportunity for everyone, particularly those in greatest need’ (NASW, 2016, para.2).

Kia ora everyone,

As some of you may know, Saturday the 20thof February is World Day of Social Justice.

As part of our national initiative of celebrating ANZASW Social Workers I would like to celebrate the wonderful work ANZASW members Rachel Kidd, Lucy Anderson and Dennis Maang from the New Zealand Red Cross do with former refugees within the Pathways to Settlement Programme.

The above quote from the National Association of Social Workers I think best sums up the incredible work Rachel, Lucy and Dennis perform on a day-to-day basis helping former refugees transition to a new life here in New Zealand. From practical support such as setting up their new house in time for their arrival and enrolment into schools, long term planning in line with their own resettlement plans through to helping connect the families to their local communities – they do it all!

Dennis is a Social Worker attached to the Pathways to Settlement programme ‘designed to build on the strengths of former refugees, develop their independence and make their transition to life in New Zealand as smooth as possible’ and Dennis knows more than most how valuable this programme is having been a former refugee from Myanmar himself.


L to R – Lucy, Dennis and Rachel

Dennis arrived on his own into New Zealand in 2008 at the age of 31 (his younger brother joining him in 2011) and, like all former refugees, he went straight to the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre in Auckland. It was during his time at Mangere, through his exposure to his own Social Worker, that Dennis decided that Social Work was what he wanted to do.

He started working part-time as a Cross Cultural Worker, the conduit between the family and the Social Worker or case worker, with RMS Refugee Resettlement (as it was called at the time) and then took up a full time position as a case worker working directly with a number of assigned families. It was through the NGO social work study award that Dennis was able to fulfil his dream and become a Social Worker.  He completed social work study with Te Wananga Aotearoa in 2014 and has been with the Red Cross ever since.

Rachel is the Client Services National Lead and so has a more national role ‘supporting the programme’. Her day-to-day role consists of developing processes and procedures that help to enhance the Pathways to Settlement programme and linking with other organisations within New Zealand that help with the delivery of all the services needed for the smooth transition into the New Zealand way of life. One item keeping her extremely busy at the moment is the establishment of Dunedin as a new resettlement location where former refugees will go after leaving Mangere.

Rachel started working within the refugee sector approximately 25 years ago and she says it has ‘changed’ her life. Apart from taking time off to have her own children Rachel has remained involved in the sector and has met ‘incredible people who have really been tested’.

Lucy Anderson is the Client Services Team Leader for Wellington; with a team of 12 staff reporting directly to her (which includes Dennis). She describes her role as ‘very busy’ and ‘humbling’. With one-on-one staff supervision, inter-agency coordination to make sure they are all working in culturally appropriate ways, working with other government organisations such as the New Zealand Police and liaising with community leaders there isn’t a lot of time left over.

Lucy said next week will be quite a busy time as they are expecting 81 new former refugees into Wellington from Mangere who will start the process of integration into New Zealand (outside of Mangere). Lucy mentioned that by the time the plane lands their accommodation will be ready for them and they will be met at the airport by their allocated Social Worker (like Dennis) or case worker. Lucy said each family is given a picture of their volunteers and will also be met by them at the airport to add a familiar face to what can be a ‘scary’ time. Dennis said having been in that situation himself he can understand some may have a feeling of both hope for the future and of being scared at the prospect of starting afresh.

Their passion and commitment to their work and to the former refugees they work with shone through and it was an absolute pleasure to get an insight into their daily working lives.

Some facts and figures that may be of interest

  • Around the world there are approximately 60 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.
  • Of the 60 million displaced people worldwide, approximately 20 million are refugees, more than ever before. 40 million people are internally displaced and around 2 million are asylum-seekers.
  • New Zealand welcomes 750 refugees per year under its current refugee quota. The quota has not changed since 1987.
  • New Zealand ranks 90th in the world in per capita assistance to refugees. Meanwhile, Australia takes five times more refugees and asylum seekers per capita than us and their quota is three and a half times higher than ours.
  • In 2015, the Government announced an emergency intake of an additional 600 places for Syrian refugees over the next two and a half years, starting in January 2015. This is not a permanent increase.
  • There are already around 100 Syrian former refugees in New Zealand who arrived during 2015 under the regular quota.
  • Additionally, there are about 300 people per year who come to NZ on a refugee family reunification visa but these people do not receive any government assistance or programme support.
  • Refugees come from all over the world. Currently, however, 53 per cent of refugees come from just three countries; Syria 3.88m, Afghanistan 2.59m and Somalia 1.1m
  • Though New Zealand accepts refugees from a wide range of countries, we have large populations form Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Iraq, Somalia and Bhutan.

Nga Mihi