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Promoting diversity is not just the ‘right’ or ‘fair’ thing -- it’s the smart thing

10.36am 27 October 2022 | Social Media

Rachel, Graduate Advisor in the Correspondence Reviews and Ministerial Servicing team joined Customs in July 2021, as part of the Ethnic Communities Graduate Programme.

October marks one year since Rachel joined Customs Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) Council and also became a Network Lead for the Customs Asian Network. She would like to share her experience in both the Network and Council, which has led to some of Rachel’s greatest highlights at Customs.

“I wanted to get involved within the organisation itself and better understand – and potentially even contribute to – the conversation around how Customs attracts and retains diverse rangatahi (young people), if not through the programme I was in,” says Rachel.

The Inclusion and Diversity Council

“For me, promoting diversity is not just the ‘right’ or ‘fair’ thing - it’s the smart thing.  A diversity of lived experiences (i.e. ethnicity, sex, religion etc.) enables diversity of thought, which in the Customs workplace translates to different perspectives, ideas, or directions. However, if our people don’t feel comfortable to speak up, share ideas – or even want to stay – we don’t get to benefit from this diverse thought.  Without the ‘inclusion’ piece, diversity is tokenistic at best.”

“I have found that the Council understands this and puts equal weight to both parts of the equation. The Council is a unique forum where staff from across the organisation discuss issues as well as test ideas on various topics – from hiring practices, psychological safety to pay gaps. These are all topics that are critical to the conversation of building a diverse and inclusive workplace.”

“The Council has been an incredibly open and accepting group, and I’ve really enjoyed sharing my perspective and seeing how this engagement informs and potentially transforms the organisation. Carina Donald is the Chair of the Council and she does a fantastic job fostering a welcoming environment for us all.”

“A key highlight has been organising and facilitating a Customs online talk for Pink Shirt Day in May 2022 with Meng Foon, Aotearoa New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner. It was really rewarding receiving feedback from staff from across the organisation on the talk, especially his candour and advice on how to handle workplace bullying. It was particularly a fond memory as I got to meet him in person after the talk!”

The Asian Network​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

As an Asian Network lead, Rachel works with the other leads to plan and execute initiatives that make a tangible contribution to service delivery, improve staff engagement and well-being, and provide support for one another.

One key highlight has been organising the Asian Languages Week at Customs, where staff from pan-Asian backgrounds share stories about their languages and cultures. In particular, April, who was a policy analyst at Customs, shared a story about a popular Korean song that was based off the waita ‘Pokerekare Ana’ sung by Māori soldiers during the Korean war. The stories reached staff from Brussels to the South Island, who expressed how moved and illuminated they were by these personal insights to different cultures.

“Moments like that remind us of how the simple act of sharing stories can build more understanding and create genuine connections. I am proud of the mahi (work) of the Asian Network and all the networks who work to lift up our people and celebrate our unique stories.”

“I have also signed up to all the other incredible Networks at Customs and I would encourage everyone to do the same. Networks also serve as forums to learn about and appreciate the various cultures and communities at Customs. They help me better understand my teammates, colleagues and fellow kiwis who have different life experiences.”

Council and Networks mahi is Customs mahi

Volunteering on the Council or as a Network Lead is not just ‘feel good’ work, it is critical BAU and ‘future-proofing’ work for the organisation. It also enables Customs to fulfil the expectations of Papa Pounamu as required by the Public Service Commission, as well as helps us meet Customs I&D Strategy goals.

“I would encourage anyone to put their hand up to volunteer when the opportunity comes up – no matter your background or position, everyone has a unique perspective to bring to this important mahi,” says Rachel.