Serving to empower ethnic communities

Palestinian Kiwi, Fay Elhanafy gave SGWN an insight into the Ethnic Communities Graduate Programme and how it will kickstart a career focused on empowering her community.


Fay Elhanafy is a Palestinian Kiwi with a Master's of International Relations and Diplomacy from the University of Canterbury. She moved to Auckland with her family in 2009 at the age of 10 before settling in Christchurch. From a young age, Fay showed interest in current events, human rights, women’s rights, community engagement and diversity and inclusion. She studied a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Media and Communication at the University of Canterbury. Her Master’s was influenced by the March 15 terrorist attack and she wrote her thesis on Lone Wolf Terrorism and National Security focusing on counter-terrorism efforts and legislation.

Fay is an Advisor in the Community and Partnership team at the Ministry for Ethnic Communities. She is one of 37 graduates in the Ethnic Communities Graduate Programme run by the Ministry for Ethnic Communities to help ethnic graduates start their careers in the Public Service. The programme was created as part of the Royal Commission Report to improve New Zealand’s social cohesion. Fay is the first and only graduate from the South Island and is enjoying working in a very diverse and welcoming Community and Engagement Southern Team. As a Palestinian Kiwi, Fay values this meaningful first employment opportunity in the Public Service as it improves representation, diversity and empowers ethnic communities.

Fay’s work at the Ministry spans several different initiatives and issues. She is contributing to the National COVID-19 Response by writing the Status Report for the Minister and organising meetings with stakeholders. The Ministry’s COVID-19 efforts include work on how to get more people vaccinated and research into the impact of COVID-19 on New Zealanders. One initiative Fay managed personally was to deliver over 102,000 masks to ethnic organisations in the South Island.

Fay has also been involved in the DiversCity ceremony opening for GapFiller in Christchurch. DiversCity 2022 is a project collaboration with: the Canterbury Zurkhaneh Club, The Christchurch Iranian Society and University of Canterbury Iranian Society, Embracing Diversity, The Pakistani Association of Canterbury, and the United Afghan Association of Canterbury. As part of this project, five park benches, decorated with cultural imagery have been installed in the Christchurch Botanical Gardens.

As lead of the Hiwa - Wāhine Series (Women to Women) project, Fay hopes to empower ethnic women by supporting them in employment as well as in their workplaces. The project will also work to ensure ethnic women have access to digital devices and support when using technology to seek job opportunities.

Fay is also involved in working with ethnic New Zealanders in smaller communities like Ashburton and the Selwyn District aiming to connect and grow the relationships between them and the Ministry. As part of the graduate programme, she will also gain experience in policy writing and analysis, as well as research.

Fay has found her placement at the Ministry busy but fulfilling and a genuine opportunity to develop her skills and career. If you would like to know more about the Ministry for Ethnic communities graduate programme a video reflecting the first nine months of the journey is available: Ethnic Communities Graduate Programme: Our journey so far.


Graduation photo of Fay Elhanafy

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