Giving a voice to learners: Ethnic Advisory Group celebrates 20 years

Our Organisation

Our Ethnic Advisory Group is celebrating 20 amazing years!

We’re delighted to acknowledge this special Group’s contribution to crafting English Language Partners (ELP) into the strong, resilient, partnership-focused organisation of today.

As a special ‘voice of our learners,’ the Ethnic Advisory Group (EAG) plays a vital role in shaping our programmes and services. Members give their time and expertise voluntarily to inform ELP on key issues affecting our ethnic communities, and they ensure we keep a clear focus on our learners' needs and the goals they want to achieve by learning English.

The EAG met most recently on the 17th September in Wellington - an excellent, in-person reunification for the group after a year of online-only meetings due to Covid19 restrictions.

Among the important topics workshopped by the group were new methods to encourage honest learner feedback, the use of terms such as "ESOL" in how we describe our services, and ways to further expand the contributions of the EAG in the future alongside our new CE, Rachel O'Connor.

From humble beginnings

In 2002, the Board and Chief Executive began looking into ways to encourage and strengthen learner participation at the national strategic level. They were seeking views, guidance and feedback from our learners’ ethnic perspectives, which resulted in the decision to form the EAG.

Seven enthusiastic, intrepid Kiwis of international origin made up our inaugural, nationwide EAG: Abdul Nasser (Iraq); Ahmed Yusuf Ali (Ethiopia); Batu Gondol (Ethiopia); Brenda Chan (China); Hana Sabie (Iraq); Kutu Mukherjee (India) and Patisepa Tagata (Tokelau).

Our EAG today

Our EAG comprises representatives of ethnic groups from all over New Zealand and meets twice a year with the aim of helping our member communities thrive.

Through the EAG, people from non-English speaking, refugee and migrant-background communities have an opportunity to add their perspective to inform ELP’s work. The EAG advises on learner needs and helps the organisation keep up to date with changing trends and issues affecting former refugees and migrants.

Many members have also been ELP teachers and staff members; job mentors and seekers; Cultural and Language Assistants; learners and volunteer home tutors, with some having multiple roles over their time with the organisation.

EAG members are always an enormously diverse, talented and multi-skilled group, and our current members are no exception, with backgrounds in business, teaching, administration, law and information technology.

Mohammad Hilal has served on the EAG since 2019 and says it was his pleasure to accept a position on the Group.

“Every ethnic group has different experiences and different needs, and we benefit from working together.”

Mohammad works in information technology and has also recently started a takeaway shop with two Syrian friends in Wellington. In his weekends, Mohammad uses his university education in Arabic language and linguistics to teach weekly Arabic lessons to around 55 children - voluntarily. “When children come here, they can begin to lose their mother tongue, so we offer the classes.”

Joanne Lee’s another current member who’s been sharing her skills since 2020. As well as sitting on the EAG, Joanne is a full-time coordinator and well-respected member of our ELP North Shore team. Although Joanne arrived with many years’ planning management experience in her home country, Korea, with no Kiwi work experience, she struggled to get her first job. Joanne decided to train as a volunteer ESOL home tutor, then joined our North Shore centre as a volunteer intern.

She still remembers her first day with ELP. “I was so nervous. The staff were lovely, so that made it easier. I was emotionally touched having my own workspace in New Zealand as I had back in Korea. It was a remarkable moment.”

Joanne says she’s found being part of the EAG a source of much enjoyment. “From sharing creative and innovative ideas from people of diverse backgrounds to contributing to the community and organisation."

"I take great pleasure in working on the EAG.”

Juan Song, originally from China, is also an EAG member and says she’s benefitted enormously from her participation with ELP. “All the beautiful people I have met have encouraged, guided and supported me to explore a new journey in a new country.”

Juan’s association with our Hawkes Bay centre helped her secure voluntary and paid jobs: her first as a homecare worker, her next as a Mandarin teacher at a high school, and then an administrator role for the Hawkes Bay District Health Board. Currently, Juan is working part-time at a primary school while studying for Teacher Registration. Ever busy, she also volunteers as a translator/interpreter for Hawkes Bay Regional Prison.

Juan says joining the EAG in 2020 was her way of giving back.

“Hopefully I can give my contribution back to this nourishing and inclusive organisation at my best.”
First row: Sherrie Lee (Board member), Mohammad Hilal, Laura Moreno, Ngozi Penson, Rachel O'Connor (CE), Jane von Dadeszen (Deputy board chair), Ku Reh Nga.
Second row: Jamie Cruise (Head of Learning & Growth), Juan Song, Rehab Mohamed, Joanne Lee.

We salute and thank our EAG

The EAG’s work embodies English Language Partners’ vision and our key values: diversity, respect, partnership and excellence. The EAG remains a vibrant, indispensable limb of our organisation: key to the success of ELP’s vision of an Aotearoa where former refugees and migrants settle well and succeed.

On the 20th anniversary of our EAG, we acknowledge and appreciate the guidance, tremendous hard work and commitment of our past and current members.

We thank each of the 57 wonderful individuals who’ve worked selflessly over the past twenty years to sustain the work, health and wellbeing of English Language Partners.



EAG aims

• encourage and strengthen learner participation in national decisions about our overall service direction and strategies

• facilitate community input into Board planning and policy development

• ensure all national policy and English Language Partners’ services effectively meet learner needs

• bring about a change in the ethnic composition of ELP’s governing body[1]

20 years of achievements

Over two decades of advising the Board and Chief Executive, the EAG has participated in organisational reviews and strategic planning. Some key achievements have been assisting:

• ELPNZ’s funding framework

• a framework on learners’ access to services(responsibilities framework)

• development of planning tools (eg. for advocacy, diversity and inclusion, quality standards)

• website development and research projects

• ELP’s conferences

• government agencies seeking a migrant and refugee perspective, and wanting to inform communities about their initiatives

• sharing personal stories via website blogs and Connecting Cultures articles

• government agencies seeking a migrant and refugee perspective, and wanting to inform

More recently, the EAG has been engaged with Covid-19’s impact on the migrant community, particularly those new challenges learners have faced throughout the pandemic. Another, more recent focus has been Te Tiriti o Waitangi’s significance and how it connects with English Language Partners’ strategies to build multicultural understanding and support our communities in their settlement process.

EAG members 2002 – 2022

Current members

Bhoj Raj Subba (Bhutan)

Joanne Lee (Korea)

Joanne (Aijuan) Song (China)

Ku Reh Nga (Myanmar)

Laura Moreno (Colombia)

Mohammad Hilal (Syria)

Ngozi Penson (Nigeria)

Rehab Mohamed (Egypt)


Former members

Batu Gondol (Ethiopia); Hana Sabie (Iraq); Kutu Mukherjee (India); Patisepa Tagata (Tokelau); Dr Abdulmonem Nasser (Iraq); Brenda Chan (China); Ahmed Yusuf Ali (Ethiopia); Guadalupe Lagrade (Philippines); Samson Sahele (Ethiopia); Ifrah Shaqlane (Somalia); Asad Abdullahi (Somalia); Mar Mar Kyi Maung (Myanmar); Jae Ahn (Korea); Alice (Yaguang) Wang (China); Oham Saaed (Iraq); Gylchachak Sadikova (Uzbekistan); Maria (Soo Ae) Park (Korea); Ruth Chinamo (Zimbabwe); Khadra Mohamed (Somalia); Ahmad Munib Nouri (Afghanistan); Nisa Rose (China); Galawezh Noori (Iran); Maureen Zaya (Iraq); Emoke Csollany (Hungary); Pamela Joseph (Malaysia); Gurbrinder Aulakh (India); Fahima Haidari (Afghanistan); Hardy Hko (Korea); Kevin Park (Korea); Maria Cristina Rodriguez (Columbia); Wendy Li (China); Lwin Lwin Tue (Myanmar); Mohammad Amiri (Afghanistan); Priscilla Seo (Korea); Amit Prasad(Fiji); Akam Faraj (Iraq); Suldery Millan Ortega (Columbia); Suzel Daglinckx (Belgium); Maria Cristina Castro Herrera (Colombia); Valentyna Sylevych (Ukraine); Rhonda Lin (China); Suming Zhang (China); Leticia Ferreira Do Nascimento (Brazil); Chuda Ghimirey (Bhutan); Grace Ryu (Korea); Ruchika Jayatilaka (Sri Lanka); Amina Mofassir (Pakistan); Viva (Wei) Shao (China); Laure Romanetti (France)


[1] Four of nine current Board members are from a migrant background.

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