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Big audience . . . Waitaki Migrants Meet and Share facilitator Maria Buldain is representing the district in Wellington at the Multicultural NZ annual general meeting today. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Local initiatives to help support new migrants settle in Waitaki are being showcased at a national level today.

Waitaki Migrants Meet and Share facilitator Maria Buldain is representing the district in Wellington at the Multicultural NZ annual general meeting.

She will facilitate a screening for the rest of the country of New Nesters, a short documentary exploring the lives of newcomers to the Waitaki district, launched during Mental Health Awareness Week last year.

The film, which deals with themes of acceptance, social anxiety, overcoming cultural barriers, and the hope of migrants creating a new life for themselves and their families, was produced by Mrs Buldain and made by Gamel O’Brien and Bridget Ellis.

Mrs Buldain will also be presenting her work on the pilot programme “Women’s Wellbeing Framework for Ethnic Women”, a collaboration between the Ministry for Women and Multicultural NZ.

The programme, created to enhance the wellbeing of ethnic women in New Zealand, was piloted by co-ordinators of regional multicultural centres in Waitaki, Manawatu and Hawkes Bay, and Auckland.

Mrs Buldain, the Waitaki co-ordinator, said it was “quite special” the district had been chosen.

The programme aims to reach new migrant women, and those with refugee backgrounds, to give them an overview of the opportunities and freedoms available to them in New Zealand. Part of its outreach is to help women find and access existing resources and people in their region.

The idea was developed last year as part of the Suffrage 125 celebrations. It has been developed by women who understand what it is like to move to and settle in a new country.

“I’m really happy about this opportunity to go to Wellington and be able to learn and see what other regions are doing too and bring things back to Oamaru,” Mrs Buldain said.

There are now people from 43 different ethnicities signed up to the Newcomers Network and Migrant Support in the Waitaki area.

Mrs Buldain moved to Oamaru 16 years ago with husband Nicolas Erdody, looking for a better life for themselves and their children, then aged 16, 12 and 3. She said the growth of Oamaru’s multicultural community over the past 16 years had been amazing.

“People from all over the world are moving to Oamaru and we have a lot of nationalities and small groups.”

While services had improved, there were still things migrants struggled with when they moved to Waitaki.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from, the struggles are quite similar – we all have questions about things like employment, health and housing.”

Many migrants in the Waitaki district were highly skilled, but struggled to find work in their chosen field, she said.

Mrs Buldain, for example, is a clinical psychologist, and also has a bachelor of social services from the University of Otago, but she has struggled to find work.

“I am not the only migrant in this situation – we have plenty of examples of other people who have skills and had a professional life before they came to New Zealand,” she said.

There was good progress being made – and many exciting initiatives in North Otago, she said.

Mrs Buldain is a volunteer for the Waitaki Multicultural Council and two years ago established the Waitaki Migrants Meet and Share group.

The group meets every second Thursday for migrants to meet each other for a coffee and a chat, while learning new things about New Zealand and the Oamaru community.