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Survey shows students feel safe living in Christchurch

3 July 2008

A survey of international students’ perception of  how they can seek help against harassment has shown the large majority feel safe living in Christchurch

urvey touch-screens were put in place for two weeks each at the University of Canterbury (UC) and Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) during May and June.

The onscreen questionnaire was answered by 260 students. Despite around half of the respondents saying they had experienced having hurtful things said to them because of their ethnicity, 86 per cent said they felt safe living in Christchurch.

The project is part of an ongoing Welcome to Christchurch joint initiative by the Christchurch City Council, UC, CPIT, Ngai Tahu, the Police and the Human Rights Commission.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the survey showed Christchurch was not the racist city it was often portrayed as.

“We are not unusual in that we are still learning to embrace the different ethnicities that we have, but I think the great majority of Christchurch and Canterbury people understand and appreciate what different cultures bring to the city and the province.

“It’s always those vocal few who will hassle our newcomers, but thankfully in the long term scheme of things our new residents understand this is a pretty good place to live.

“What we as residents have to do is sort out those vocal few with the mindless prejudice, and say to them that their attitudes are not acceptable.”

Mr Parker said that as someone who, by virtue of his  job, “cops a bit of mindless harassment from time to time” he could sympathise with international students who also occasionally met with that form of ignorant behaviour.

“The vast majority of our City residents value and care about overseas students having a safe and enjoyable time in Christchurch. They are welcome friends, and will meet many good people here," he said.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres welcomed the survey and said the results were encouraging.

In a breakdown of figures, 92 of the respondents were from UC and 168 from CPIT. Most, on both campuses, were in the 21-25 age group, with considerably more males than females taking part at UC, whereas gender balance in respondents was more equal at CPIT. The most common nationalities were Chinese, South and North Koreans, Japanese, Taiwanese and Saudi Arabians.

Statistical results were very similar for both institutions. About half the respondents said they had experienced harassment.  About half also said they had seen others harassed.

Barriers to making a complaint were mainly not knowing who to tell and not being confident in the English language. There was also some concern that Police would not act on complaints. Family and friends were by far the most likely to be confided in.

Other reasons given for cases not being reported included the incident being regarded as trivial, that this kind of thing seemed to happen often, and concern that complaining could make things worse.

The Welcome to Christchurch project started with a poster campaign rolled out in February at UC and CPIT depicting students of various ethnicities carrying out a hongi, with the word welcome in different languages. The touch-screen survey found the campaign had been highly visible with around 76% of respondents saying they had seen the posters.

The  poster campaign will be re-launched at the end of the month with posters using new images, but using the same theme. See brochure


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