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Source: New Zealand Government Office of Ethnic Communities

Many of you will know Dr Vivien Verheijen, Senior Diversity and Engagement Advisor, who has been with the Office of Ethnic Communities for 11 years. She recently completed her doctorate and is moving on to new ventures. Congratulations Viv, and we’ll miss you!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in China. I arrived in New Zealand in 2002, and completed a Masters of Social Policy at Massey University. Before I joined the Office of Ethnic Affairs, as it was called in 2007, I worked at non-government organisations such as Shakti Women’s Refuge and at a mental health community support service.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how did you conquer it?

Integrating into New Zealand society while also maintaining my own ethnic heritage and identity. It is not always a smooth voyage for a newcomer to settle in quickly and navigate a new society so we can fulfil our ambitions. It’s important to me to be myself, show courage and determination and never give up my fundamental principles.

What’s something you’re working on about yourself?

Striving towards professional excellence and intellectual inspiration.

Who’s the person that has influenced you most?

My supervisor Professor Marilyn Waring is a visionary leader who has dedicated her career to gender equality and women’s development. She encouraged me to embark on a PhD journey which influenced how I see social and cultural surroundings as a female immigrant.

What are you proudest of in your work at the Office of Ethnic Communities?

Firstly, the Ethnic Women’s Leadership Programme which provided practical support to develop women leaders in our mandated ethnic communities. Secondly, an international publication based on our Trailblazers Project which demonstrated immigrant women’s social and economic contribution and shared our perspectives and best practice in the international academic sphere. The publication prompted me to explore how first generation immigrant women entrepreneurs maximised their social and cultural capital to nurture their business in New Zealand in my PhD research(external link).

What thoughts do you have about your future career direction?

I would like to optimise my academic capacity and practitioner expertise to contribute to our increasingly diverse society.

Is there anything you’d like to say to the Office of Ethnic Communities team and/or our communities?

I am very grateful for the professional development that Office of Ethnic Communities and Department of Internal Affairs have provided me. I have always received care and compassion from the Office of Ethnic Communities whānau.

After working in the inclusion and diversity sector for more than 11 years, it is bittersweet to move on because many people from our ethnic communities have greatly supported me as a public servant.  It has been a great privilege to serve our ethnic communities and my adopted home for over a decade. I would like to keep a close connection with the Office of Ethnic Communities as a proactive stakeholder to strengthen ethnic diversity in Aotearoa New Zealand.