Asian Family Services (AFS) celebrated its newfound status, with the blessing of its PGF (Problem Gambling Foundation) parent body, as an independent entity at a special event held at Parliament on Wednesday 22 February 2023, hosted by the Minister for Diversity, Inclusion, and Ethnic Communities Honourable, Priyanca Radhakrishnan and attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, Honourable Carmel Sepuloni.
About 200 guests attended from the public service and not-for-profit sector, as well as community leaders and supporters.
Deputy Prime Minister Hon Carmel Sepuloni says, "(AFS) did a good job in ensuring the voices of our Asian communities are heard and represented...This evening marks an exciting chapter for Asian Family Services."
Hon Priyanca Radhakrishnan acknowledges the work that AFS is doing, "You have dramatically expanded your scope and reach, both geographically and the number of Asian communities you now support in culturally appropriate ways."
Kelly Feng, AFS Chief Executive says establishing AFS as an independent operation is an important milestone for the charitable trust.
“This highlights our determination to work with government agencies and stakeholders to build on solutions and services that truly reflect equity for Asians living in Aotearoa New Zealand in the health and social wellbeing space,” she says.
“The solutions are within the people and communities. The non-for-profit agencies are the bridge to connect the government and our communities; the high-trust relationship between government and the non-for-profit sector is crucial to the wellbeing of all people living in this beautiful Aotearoa. We must strengthen our relationship to work together to build a better system and provide better services for all.”
Established in 1998 as part of the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand (now trading as PGF Group), AFS started operations to minimise the harm from gambling for Asian communities. Over two decades later, AFS has developed wrap-around services for people of Asian background who are affected not only by gambling harm and addiction, but also require mental health and social wellbeing support. AFS has established itself as a recognised and trusted provider of services in Asian communities across Aotearoa and among Asian health practitioners.
Kelly Feng says AFS has been leading many pioneering projects since 2016 and they are proud of what they have achieved over this time.
“We established Asian Wellbeing Services, Asha Services and Digital Language Services along with involvement in Asian research projects and the development of a first-of-a-kind suicide prevention resource and so much more,” she says.
“All our endeavours are reflected in our vision that all people of Asian heritage and background lead flourishing and fulfilling lives in an equitable Aotearoa New Zealand.”
Asians migrated to New Zealand as early as the 1860s when Chinese labourers worked in the gold mines in Otago. At the time of the 2018 Census, the Asian population of New Zealand was 707,598, accounting for 15.1% of the entire population of New Zealand. This population is predicted to reach about 1 million by 2025 and is expected to rise to over a quarter of the New Zealand population by 2043.
Kelly Feng says despite the increase in Asian population size, the provision of culturally responsive and linguistically appropriate services is severely lacking.
“There is a huge gap in service provision, but it also poses oppotunities to rethink how we can all, as providers of services, be more inclusive and work together to support one another,” she says.
“With our ethnically diverse and professional workforce, in-depth Asian insights, trusted Asian channels and strong connection with Asian communities, AFS is well prepared. We will be more visible, supporting goverment policy consultation and input that will represent the needs of the Asian population and establish more culturally appropriate services for Asians living in Aotearoa New Zealand.”