Cultural diversity role brings communities together

One Christchurch high school has created a coordinated approach to inclusion by appointing a cultural diversity facilitator to help bring the school’s communities together.

Riccarton High School’s cohort includes over 80 nationalities. At present, the school has about 100 Chinese, 100 Māori and over 120 Filipino students, as well as a diverse Pasifika and Middle Eastern community. About 48 per cent of the students identify as New Zealand European.

To meet the needs of each cultural group, the school created a 'cultural diversity facilitator' position about a year ago. The new facilitator, Zainab Tayyab, is a few months into the role and says the work is multi-faceted.

"I’ve met quite a few people from the Office of Ethnic Communities and multicultural councils so we’re trying to form a relationship with them because they’re quite well established in supporting the different ethnic communities," she says.

"We’ve just recently conducted surveys with the staff team and everyone’s on board with things like teachers needing more information about our ethnic groups that we don’t often realise, so it would come down to getting more professional development opportunities for our staff."

Zainab has also conducted surveys amongst students to hear about their cultural experience within the school.

"The staff work hard to develop these relationships through the curriculum and extracurricular activities. It’s not just the key events… we’ve got established kapa haka groups and Pasifika groups in addition to Chinese dance forms and Filipino dance forms, so every group is getting their own sort of cultural acknowledgement and that promotes a sense of inclusiveness."

Although most schools do have support staff, such as counsellors, a cultural diversity facilitator can provide support to those students who may not feel comfortable going to others.

"There’s lots of students where it’s kind of culturally not accepted to go to a counsellor, so by creating a position like this within the school you have a less formal person or team to go to, to facilitate that conversation."



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