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NZDF launches Pan Asian Network

21 February, 2024

The New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) new Pan Asian Network (PAN), launching this month at RNZAF Base Auckland, is intended as a support platform for the Defence Asian community and a connection for NZDF leaders who want to better support staff and colleagues of Asian ethnicity.

The launch on 9 February at RNZAF Base Auckland, timed with the start of the Lunar New Year, attracted sailors, soldiers, aviators and civilians for a meet-and-greet and morning tea, with speakers sharing personal journeys and senior leaders voicing their support.

The network’s creator and lead, Squadron Leader Nash Alur, shared his passion for creating a safe space for Pan Asian personnel and civilians. He was inspired by his own journey of fitting into New Zealand as an Asian and joining the Defence Force.

“As much of a New Zealander as I feel, there are differences,” he says.

We come from completely different cultures and upbringings and I needed support around me to make the most of those differences.

When he joined the NZDF, there were times when he wanted someone to talk to about the subtle things that only another Asian might understand.

“But there were very few of us around to begin with and I also did not feel comfortable to have those conversations, preferring to just try and fit in as best as I could. So I carried on and thought I would figure it out on my own.

“Years later I asked myself: if I as leader found this a challenge, how would a soldier, aviator, sailor or a civilian feel they could have those conversations or bring their whole identity to work?

“That was what got me thinking about forming this initiative. I talked to others and realised there was a need.”

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Nina Russell, NZDF Director Diversity and Inclusion, addresses the network

Nina Russell, NZDF Director Diversity and Inclusion, addresses the network

Squadron Leader Nash Alur opens discussions at the event.

Squadron Leader Nash Alur opens discussions at the event.

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Base Commander Auckland, Group Captain Mike Cannon provides insights

Base Commander Auckland, Group Captain Mike Cannon provides insights

He says it was not about people expressing concerns to him, but they were appreciative and grateful that such a network now exists.

“It’s about being proactive and having a representative voice to ensure Asian members within the NZDF can have the best lived experience. This in turn should benefit the NZDF through retention, recruitment and community awareness.”

He says this network could develop in many directions, but it had to start with honest conversation. “This is a safe community for Asians to have that conversation.”

Base Commander Auckland, Group Captain Mike Cannon gave his support at the event, highlighting the power of networks like PAN to unite individuals.

Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Ms. Nina Russell, emphasized the importance of employee-led networks in enriching positive employee experiences.

In a video message, Mervin Singham, the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Ethnic Communities, conveyed his congratulations to SQNLDR Nash Alur on his leadership and to the NZDF on the launch of the network.

He spoke of his personal insights and experiences of the importance of employee networks such as this.

“Diversity of any workforce is just a fact – but making diverse employees feel genuinely included, that’s a choice every organisation has to make,” he told the audience.

Another supporter, Vai Kavthekar from the Pan Asian Public Service Network’s senior advisory committee, explained the support available for Asian members in the wider Public Service Sector and congratulated the NZDF for forming their own chapter, suited to the NZDFs unique environment.

SQNLDR Alur is supported by Lieutenant Commander Prasad Chavan and Staff Sergeant Lanka Ge as the Royal New Zealand Navy and NZ Army representatives.

A wider group of volunteers, mostly RNZAF Base Auckland-based, have also been instrumental in getting the network up. However, SQNLDR Alur says by the end of this year they want to have a formal committee and representation across the camps and bases, with future on-line and off-line events, and plenty of celebration around cultural events.